Questions typically arise from problems you need to solve

If I understand correctly, the concept of Stackoverflow is something like: "I am facing a problem while programming, I already researched and asked by colleagues but couldn't get it solved either, so I am now asking the SO community if anyone knows the answer".

If we translate that principle to RPG.Stackexchange we would get something like: "I have encountered a problem while running a TTRPG Session, either in the mechanics of the game or in how to handle a social problem at the table and don't know what to do, so I am asking the experts on RPG SE."

However my question don't

I am a DM running games at a low levels (currently lvl 2) for pretty inexperienced players, while having a lot of experience with D&D myself (though much of it theoretical), that helps me through the sessions. And if I encounter something I don't know I am quick to learn and adapt accordingly. Because of these reasons I rarely end up having to ask questions about concrete problems I encounter through interactions with my players or while preparing a session. However I like reading the official 5E Books in my spare time and try to learn as much as I can from them. While reading I sometimes come up with questions, I can't find an answer for and then end up asking them here.

But then people often start asking me what the specific problem I am facing right now is, like "Do you or one of your players use this spell/monster/weapon etc. in your campaign?" I am then unable to answer these requests as my questions aren't something I am facing in a TTRPG Game Session, but instead me trying to understand the structure, rules and design concepts of D&D Fifth Edition. These questions still help me and potentially others as well to understand the game better and be prepared to face problems that might arise in the future. They just aren't connected to a specific situation I currently have and perhaps might never be.

The community reaction to my questions without specific problems was mixed (see examples below), some were received poorly for that reason other received many upvotes, despite not being about any in-game issues I needed help on. This I don't understand as these are all the same type of question to me. One thing however stood out: None of my questions were ever closed for being off-topic (or for any other reason). This seems to indicate that those questions are on-topic, however I am not certain if they really were, which is why I am asking here.

How should we handle such questions?

  • Are questions still on-topic if they are about theoretical problems you encounter e.g. while reading a game mechanic in a book, rather than actual situations you encounter while playing or gamemastering a campaign?
  • If Yes, should they even be asked? Are they helpful for the community or are they too far off from reality to be of any use?
  • Are such questions perhaps only allowed/useful if they meet certain criteria? If so what are those? (see also related question no. 3 below)
  • If someone were to post such a question, which guidelines should they adhere to in order to make the most of that question e.g. should they make up a theoretical use-case for the piece of information they are inquiring about, so people understand the potential application of that knowledge better or should they leave these out, as those aren't real problems, just made up ones?

My research on this topic

Help Center

The Help Center says regarding question one should not ask: "You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face."

However the Help Center also says you can ask questions about: “RPG rules or mechanics", "RPG adventures and campaigns" and "Information about RPG campaign settings". Which I could just have from reading a TTRPG book and thinking about it, without having to ever play an actual RPG Session.

So is me not understanding a paragraph in a book, that doesn't have a direct impact on one of my campaigns, considered an "actual problem that [I] face" or not?

Related Meta Questions

  1. Here a user asks about how to improve their questions so they get more upvotes, as this is their goal. They get told they shouldn't just ask questions for the sake of asking questions. The answerer says to "Ask actual questions, not hypotheticals" but also states in the comments that " 'I don't understand the rule' is an actual problem".

  2. This one asks about posting questions that double check basic rules, which turn out to be on-topic. Is it still on-topic if these questions are about rules than are unlikely to ever come up in my own game?

  3. I have discovered this meta-question that basically asks the same thing I am asking, however I do not consider this question here to be a duplicate of that one, as that person was really only asking why one of his questions on the main site was closed. The topic of non-problem questions was also only briefly touched in that question's answer saying they are "suspect", which really doesn't tell us much. This is also why I earlier asked if there are specific criteria that make a non-problem question viable. Additionally: This related question is over 9 Years old so that answer might have easily changed in that time and the original main site question the asker is referring to doesn't even exist anymore, so there is no way for us to fully grasp that question today.

Example Questions

Here are a list of my questions from the main site as examples, with an explanation of how they each relate to the topic:

  1. A classical example, I read the Player's Handbook and asked something that came to my mind. The community response was overwhelmingly positive.
  2. The same here, I saw a statblock in the Monster Manual that I didn't fully grap and asked about it. Community response was mixed, but mostly positive.
  3. This one is a bit trickier. I asked for the explanation of an ability of a legendary dragon, as I didn't understand how to interpret it RAW. And I must add that it is unlikely I would ever use that dragon in my game, atleast in the foreseeable future. However instead of getting an answer explaining the rules as they are, I got an explanation of how to handle this narratively in the game. Which is not what I wanted, as again this isn't an example from my game.
  4. And then we get to this question where I for once really had a problem I wanted to solve: I was drawing the map for my new campaign and didn't understand how to do depict a town on a map using the process described in the Dungeon Master's guide. However I didn't mention that it was for my campaign and just asked how to correctly follow the DMG in this scenario. This led to a lot of confusion in the community. I was asked why I needed to know that and then told I shouldn't ask how to apply the DMG rules, but to rephrase my question to be about town sizes in general. However, I ended up not needing to do that as shortly thereafter someone came along and answered my question as described. So what exactly was the problem here?
  5. This here is my most upvoted question and received quite a lot of positive feedback from the community. It is however not in the slightest about something I encountered in one of my games. It's about something I saw a famous Dungeonmaster do in a D&D Show and wondered if that was a good practice.
  6. This question here I asked just the other day about the design priciples regarding Humanoids and Giants to better understand the designer intent behind these creature types. I must admit I might have not stated that clearly enough and simply asked if my current theory was correct or not, as that is all I personally needed to know to conclude my thought process. And I'm also guilty of not doing enough research on this, as it turned out it could be answered quite easily. The community response to this question ended up being mostly negative. Would it have been received differently if I had stated I wanted to know this to be able to create statblocks that are on par with the examples found in the official sources?
  7. And finally a question I didn't end up asking: I wondered why the Enlarge/Reduce spell effects objects. Not if it effects object, I know that it does, but why it does. It confused me, because objects are normaly immune to CON Save, which the spell talks about, because of this I didn't understand the spell's text fully and wanted someone to explain to me how to interpret the spell to come to the conclusion that objects are infact effected by it. I did not post it however, because I feared it might be deemed off-topic and people might ask me "Why do you ask this, does your wizard know that spell?" or "If you know that it works, that should be enough for you to use it in your game, why do you need to know how to interpret the text correctly?". (Just in case anyone is wondering, I was told it's because only unwilling targets can make the CON Save for the spell and objects aren't considered unwilling)
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ I’m a bit confused about your framing. You observed that none of your questions have been closed for being off-topic, so is there something else that has given the impression that your questions are not allowed or off-topic for the site? \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 7 at 14:47
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov The fact that people often times ask "what specific problem are you trying to solve" made me think this might be a requirement to ask a question in the first place or for the question to be considered helpful. Also that the Help Center specifically tells us to only ask questions about "actual problems that you face". Which seems to contradict the way my questions were handled (didn't have actual problems but were not considered off-topic). Also note that I am not only asking if such a question is valid, but also asking for guidance on how to design such a question in a good way \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 7 at 15:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov I asked this question because I was personally unsure whether or not I should continue asking the kinds of questions that I like to ask, especially after reading what the Help Center said about needing "actual problems". Nobody the Hobgoblin specifically advised me to use meta to help me to understand if a question is a good fit, so that's what I am doing. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 7 at 16:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ I found another related question (rpg.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/7531/…), this one is about asking a question just because you think it might benefit the site, which you shouldn't do. As opposed to actually wanting an answer to a hypothetical question, which this question is about. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 8 at 19:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ There’s also this question, but it was not really posted in good faith. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 8 at 20:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ I removed the [legal-questions] tag, your question doesn’t appear to have anything to do with the law or legal issues. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 9 at 14:59

3 Answers 3


In general, theoretical and hypothetical questions are allowed.

The null hypothesis on these questions is that they are allowed, though a particular question may lack detail required for an answer, and may be closed. I’ve seen mechanics-related questions before that were so abstracted from actual play that we couldn’t really understand what was being asked. I don’t think any of your questions fell into this category.

“Understanding the problem” is standard procedure for writing good answers.

This is a fundamental principle here, and many other places in life. Understanding the problem we’re trying to solve is part of writing a good answer. If you have an actual problem, and my answer doesn’t solve it for you or someone else, it’s probably a bad answer. People are asking about what problem you’re trying to solve because they want to give you the best answer they can, not because they want your question to clear some arbitrary bar of concreteness. This is also how people operate in every day life. When my boss asks me for an analysis or report, it is entirely appropriate, even necessary, to ask “what business problem are we trying to solve?” Understanding the question’s context and application is an entirely normal part of answering questions, and we are here to answer questions. That said, sometimes there is no problem to be solved at the table-of-play. We have entire categories of questions where this is the case, such as or questions. But this is okay even for rules questions. “Okay” meaning “on topic”, not necessarily meaning “good, well-received question”.

“Useful and interesting” are common and valid voting criteria.

With very few exceptions, users are permitted to vote however they like; “useful” and “interesting” are common criteria. I use these two criteria often when voting, and my thought process looks something like this:

  1. Is it useful to me? Yes = Upvote.
  2. Can I see it being useful to others? Yes = Maybe Upvote.
  3. Is it interesting to me? Yes = Upvote.
  4. Can I see it being interesting to others? Yes = Maybe Upvote.
  5. Downvote.

Questions based on actual problems that occurred during a game immediately satisfy (1) and (2) and I will almost always upvote. However, questions that provide a hypothetical concrete example can be more tricky. If I think the example provided seems unrealistic and contrived, then it fails to meet (1) and (2) for me, because unrealistic and contrived scenarios typically do not seem useful to me. But I may still upvote if I find the unrealistic contrived scenario interesting.

Things get even more tricky when a question doesn’t even provide a hypothetical application. It is left to the reader to come up with an applicable scenario in order to assess a question’s usefulness, and a lot of times, that’s asking a lot of the reader. This is the reason, I think, so many purely hypothetical questions are received poorly: nobody can conceive of a scenario where asking the question actually affects gameplay. This leaves the reader to vote based on the “interesting” criterion, and personally, application is what I find interesting about rules questions.

Now, to give more concrete feedback, consider your recent question: Can we prove or disprove that Humanoids and Giants are defined by their Size Categories? The apparent lack of research didn’t actually factor into my voting, as it is a hard task to research if you are not aware of D&D Beyond’s advanced search functions. Running it through my useful-interesting workflow now:

  1. Is it useful to me? No not at all. Whether or not the author’s intended for creature types to be defined by size categories would never enter into the calculus of any decision I would ever make. I don’t care what the author’s thought about creature types and size categories, and I’m confident I will not break the game by making a creature with an unusual category for its type.
  2. Can I see it being useful to others? Honestly, I can see it being harmful to others’ experience to come up with an answer to that question. I so often have seen DMs and players hold unwaveringly to some author’s supposed intent to the detriment of everyone’s fun. So no, I cannot conceive of the question being useful to others.
  3. Is it interesting to me? Not particularly.
  4. Can I see it being interesting to others? Maybe? It’s obviously of interest to you, but I don’t really see this as “interesting and cool rules trivia”.
  5. I downvoted.

This question is on-topic and doesn’t violate any other rules for the site. I just don’t think it’s a good question, as I don’t think it’s useful or interesting. And it’s okay if others agree or disagree with that assessment.


On this stack, we have historically had problems with opinion-based answers, and especially with questions soliciting opinion-based answers. That's a problem because it doesn't work well with the voting system (among other reasons).

Questions like "do you allow monsters as PCs at your table?" are begging for answers like "Yes and it's great/No, I would never!" Those answers are bad answers because you can't usefully vote on which one is best. They also tend to ultimately be unsatisfying and unhelpful: if JoeSchmoe123 allows monster PCs but AverageBob doesn't, how does either answer help you figure out what to do?

So, if you ask a question that solicits a range of opinions or tries to take a survey, you're likely to have that question closed as opinion based, and someone is likely to leave you a link to our list of forums (which are a great fit for those questions!). You'll also likely get invited to our chat, where more conversational questions are welcome.

What can you do instead? Ask what you actually want to know. "Who allows monster PCs?" is a terrible question for this format, but "I have a player who wants to play a troglodyte. Is there any rules support for that?" or "...are there any pitfalls to be aware of?" is very much on-topic. You can absolutely ask for expert advice and experience on how to do something successfully, or about advantages and disadvantages.

On your experience with Giants and Humanoids: Designer-Intent questions are greeted with a lot of skepticism here. Not because they are inherently bad questions, but because they have historically invited a tremendous amount of bad answers, where someone pulls something out of their posterior and presents it as an answer. See here for a description of why they were previously banned, are now unbanned, and still get received with skepticism.



Questions about game mechanics, terms, and concepts are acceptable.

Having a specific example of the problem makes for better and more answerable questions, but isn't always required. Having an example or circumstance to be addressed usually focuses a question which helps avoid asking too broad or idea generation questions.

The analogous situation in technical stacks would be to have a reproducible example. That topic is a frequent staple of "how to ask a good question" that gets ignored.


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