The reason I posted the https://rpg.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/1590/then-dd-is-not-the-game-for-you question rather than as a comment, or flag on the comment as I saw this as indicative of a general problem.

As background, I have been a moderator. OK only of the ACCU General emailist and I have been involved in RPG fandom as Chairman of the '96 Con. I raise this as someone that cares about the site and what I saw shocked me. It seams to me that this very young novice was attacked for asking question on a Q&A site about something he was obviously interested in. I remember reading the first D&D and it was incomprehensible; in fact, I would say it still is.

I was under the impression that this was a Question and Answer site for Players and Game Masters of Role Playing Games. This does not mean that you have had to have read the book (even if this is a good idea) or even played it yet. If we can't help the beginners, how do we expect them to come here and ask their questions?

So my question is:

Was this reasonable treatment of a Novice, and if it was not, what should it be?

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    \$\begingroup\$ As the one who posted that comment: I am glad it was deleted and I am even more glad to see Luke persisted in learning. It was a comment made out of frustration and not patience (and blatantly a sort of "go away") and pretty much against the attitude a site like this should have. I would've rather posted telling him to persist (with learning, not in asking trivial questions) since they're not that hard, they just take time - the comments following mine were far more helpful and actually guided him in what to do to learn, and when he should actually ask a question here. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 18, 2012 at 7:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JonathanHobbs Sadly Luke's persistence hasn't included learning to use SE (voting, searching, reading people's advice), or how to follow links people have left for him. If a user won't take basic help, they're literally beyond help and the best we can do is make them stop. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 18, 2012 at 17:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ Relevant blog.stackoverflow.com/2012/07/kicking-off-the-summer-of-love/… Joel just wrote a blog on being nice, but still closing/downvoting. \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    Commented Jul 23, 2012 at 15:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also relevant: blog.stackoverflow.com/2012/08/… Summary: Comments should above all be to help the user. If that means stating uncomfortable truths, so be it, but do it with care and be nice as possible without undermining the help. Rudeness is unnecessary here, but neither is constructive criticism automatically rude. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 9, 2012 at 17:19

5 Answers 5


First go read Jeff Atwood's relevant response here.

We certainly want beginners on the site. But do note that our FAQ says

Role-playing Games Stack Exchange is for expert Q&A by and for players and gamemasters of tabletop role-playing games.

Which means, please work to get at least a basic knowledge yourself. So yes, you do need to have read the book yourself (if you're asking questions about using the book - obviously not if you're asking for recommendations or whatever).

I think we've tried to treat new people with respect and to be helpful - BUT we do not want or need 200 questions that are adequately covered by the complete basics of game rules on this site. "What is AC?" "How do I add 4 to a d8 roll?" "What is an orc?" None of this is good and on-topic here. Note an account can get question-banned for it, and "not doing basic research" is one of the reasons for it.

Bryan did mod-contact him to help get him on the right track. He needs to read the book, ask in chat, find a play group, even watch one on YouTube. I recommended that he ask a "D&D is confusing, how do I learn more after reading the rulebook" question so that we can perhaps put all those kinds of things in an answer that would benefit other people.

The one comment you mentioned may have been phrased in an undiplomatic way; you flagged it and I deleted it. Success.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Amazing, been here nearly 20 months and I missed the expert word. Good job I meet the requirement. Exactly what qualifications do you need to be a player and ask questions? What's more if I had seen the expert there I would have expected, expert answers to my question not that I need to be an expert to ask questions. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 16, 2012 at 17:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you had gone and read that first link I provided you'd have an idea. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Jul 16, 2012 at 17:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ I did read it. He is talking about sites specifically not intended for beginners. Is that what you are saying about this site? We expect a minimum level of games experience? I have to say that does not make sense to me. Very limiting to a largely non professional hobby. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 16, 2012 at 17:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think a fair bar is "read the book and think a minute before asking others to spend their time spoon-feeding you." I want to help newbies too but there is no value in this site being coated with questions about how you add 1d8+4 - it's just not efficient. 30 minutes even watching a real game clears that all up - then he can ask questions that persist after that. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Jul 16, 2012 at 17:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ It seems to me that ideally there would only be one instance of these types of questions and new users would use the search functionality of the site to find them. In reality I don't think it would be the case and there would be quite a few duplicate questions. \$\endgroup\$
    – etank
    Commented Jul 16, 2012 at 18:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk you know, it never even occured to me to watch some games on youtube to get the feel of a game. mind=blown \$\endgroup\$
    – DForck42
    Commented Jul 16, 2012 at 19:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ Is there some rpg forum where noobs can get their basic questions answered? Should they just be directed there, or asked to try chat first if there isn't? I agree that reading the books should be a basic assumption, but I don't think the books are fully comprehensible until you've had the chance to sit in on an actual game. Living in smaller centers, the only way to play is to start a game (ie GM) yourself, which means trying to understand the "latin" in the books. It also only becomes obvious what an expert level question is once you have a more complete understanding of the game. \$\endgroup\$
    – Cat
    Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 10:40

I have to pick a nit here:

I was under the impression that this was a Question and Answer site for Players and Game Masters of Role Playing Games. This does not mean that you have had to have read the book (even if this is a good idea) or even played it yet.

That does actually mean they have to have played at least one roleplaying game. I know it looks like the worst kind of semantic argument, but it bears out in reality and not just semantics: if someone has never played an RPG in their life, they don't have anything resembling the basic knowledge necessary to put answers into context, let alone be able to ask a sensible question in the first place. They're not a player of RPGs, and our site is for players of RPGs.

Having to have played an RPG is a reasonable minimum bar for participating on an RPG Q&A site. I don't think that's expecting too much of new users.

Someone new to programming who buys Python in a Nutshell and starts asking questions at SO without ever touching a computer is going to be out of place. It's no different here.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, they could only have GMed. It'd be weird, but not really a reason to bar them from participation. And there's certainly systems in which calling the GM a 'player' is forced and artificial. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 11, 2015 at 2:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ Everybody participating in the game is a player; "player" is just an overloaded word, is all, used also for describing a subset of player roles. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 11, 2015 at 3:17

We were all gaming novices at one time. Many of us still are (including, for the most part, me). However, that does not preclude us from asking expert level Q&A.

There are at least two kinds of beginners though:

  • The Inquisitive Novice. This is the kind of beginner that reads the rule book, plays the game a time or two, or sit and watches a game at his local gaming shop, or on youtube. Then they show up at the stack and start asking questions informed from the experience of game play. These people may ask basic questions, but they are well formed and the idea behind them is to improve the knowledge they have already acquired. This person will likely ask one or two questions initially and wait for answers and try to find the answers on his own to other questions (maybe even here).

  • The Help Vampire. This is someone who has taken a cursory look at the books, seen things he doesn't understand and maybe does a small amount of research, then fires off 10 basic questions because he doesn't understand any of the rules and hasn't even watched some basic game play to know the basic flow and mechanics of the game. The term vampire is used because they basically just suck out all of the help they can get and leave a dead hulk of a site in their wake. This kind of behavior unchecked will kill a Q&A site (Yahoo Answers?)

Our goal as a stack is to keep the "Inquisitive Novices" they can manage to ask even basic questions that qualify as expert Q&A because they've done enough research to have the vocabulary and some basic knowledge to understand the answer. However, the "Help Vampire" presents a much greater challenge. Either we can attempt to reform these users and turn them into useful citizens. Or we can communicate to these people that RPG.SE is not the right place for them to learn entire games but is a place where they can come to clarify their understanding of the rules once they actually understand game play.

Let me be clear. I do not see the purpose of the Q&A portion of this site as having anything to do with teaching people how to play RPGs. Stack Overflow is not about learning how to program. Super User is not about learning how to use a computer. Seasoned Advice is not about how to learn how to cook. Christianity is not about how to become a Christian. All of these sites are for people who are there already to improve their skills and knowledge about their (profession/hobby/religion/etc). We are here to teach, but most of the time the very beginners are outside of our purview.

Chat (provided a minimal rep is accumulated anywhere on SE) is available and can be a much better means to actually teach people how to play RPGs. Several users on this site have learned 4e through Brian's weekly chat games where they can play with other experienced players (and a very competent--albeit evil--GM). We have an appropriate venue for teaching, and while the barrier to entry exists, it's minimal. Thus, if the problem is just that someone needs actual play experience, or to talk to someone then that's one thing. However, sometimes someone just want to come and suck out all the help they can get and move on. These people should be driven away as they consume valuable resources and provide no lasting benefit. They don't leave good questions behind and they just frustrate the kinds of users that we actually want to keep.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for "RPG.SE is not for teaching people how to play RPGs". I think this is the dividing line we've been looking for that distinguishes what is and isn't "expert", as the FAQ uses it. People who don't know how to play RPGs at all wouldn't find useful answers here, even if we tried. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 18, 2012 at 17:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie Even if we tried is important. \$\endgroup\$
    – C. Ross
    Commented Jul 18, 2012 at 22:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ @C.Ross And we have! And we will next time, not being able to tell whether someone is capable of comprehending our help until we try. Still, there will be horses who won't drink the water we lead them to, no matter how much we strain our arms pointing at the water. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 19, 2012 at 1:43

The actual Q&A part of this site isn't structured like a chat space or forum. Say you explain to the poster what 1d8 means. Okay, next question, what is Dex? Next question, what is AC? Next question, how many attack rolls do I make? Next question, where do I get funny dice? In another medium, a patient interlocutor could address these in one coherent space, and the user would actually gain understanding through dialogue; on Stack Exchange, these are meaningless clutter that helps no one, including the person asking the question.

Closing the questions and directing the poster to another resource (including RPG.SE chat) was exactly the right move. As was moderating away any excessively pejorative responses.

  • \$\begingroup\$ yes. There are some people, and some scenarios where this just isn't the right place \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    Commented Jul 17, 2012 at 10:25

Are we really concerned that opening the site to questions like "What does 1d8 mean?" will ruin everything?

Do you really believe that concern outweighs our desire to increase traffic to the site?

I say open the site up to any question about RPGs, no matter how basic. If someone asks what "1d8" means, we rephrase the question, "Explain standard dice notation, like 1d8," and answer that. Next time someone asks, we close the question as redundant. If someone asks what AC is, we restructure the question as, "What are the abbreviations used in D&D?" and answer that. Subsequent questions are closed as redundant.

Personally, all of this smells of elitism. Really, I see no reason to chase away new players, eager to learn more about our games. Open the doors and welcome them all in.

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    \$\begingroup\$ blog.stackoverflow.com/2011/02/are-some-questions-too-simple relevant SO blog post, and yes I think it applies here as well. \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    Commented Aug 11, 2012 at 14:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ One more thing. The series of questions that sparked this discussion went beyond "what does 1d8 mean?" (that's actually a potentially interesting, though slightly n00bish question). The series was basically someone who was quite obviously reading the 4e players handbook and asking reading comprehension questions. \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    Commented Aug 11, 2012 at 14:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ See, I think "what is 1d8?" is a totally noob, reading-comprehension question. It's probably explained on page 3. If we're going to have an "expert-only" site, we're going to disagree a lot about what's noob and what's expert. \$\endgroup\$
    – Adam Dray
    Commented Aug 11, 2012 at 16:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ I retract the 'elitism' comment, however. It's just a matter of site philosophy. Is this a site for everyone, or is this a site for experts? \$\endgroup\$
    – Adam Dray
    Commented Aug 11, 2012 at 16:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's a site for everyone who isn't a help vampire and bothers to engage with the material before asking questions. It's not really a matter of expertise, it's a matter of being a good citizen. Asking people to spoonfeed you because you're too lazy to read or think is never on topic. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Aug 11, 2012 at 17:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ I agree Adam but we seam to be in the minority. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 11, 2012 at 21:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also, I'm not sure the "expand the question to encompass all D&D abbreviations" works. We tried a RPG Glossary here and eventually it got closed because people were unhappy with it, this seems like the same thing - and really it's answering another random question, not the question that was asked - in general made-up questions and answers lead to poor quality too. There's 1000 D&D abbreviations, will we really turn a "AC" question into an acceptable D&D glossary? I doubt it. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Aug 11, 2012 at 23:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ Adam, some context is necessary here. We had a user who not only failed at basic reading comprehension of the game book, but also consistently failed basic reading comprehension here. No matter how much help was thrown their way, they just ignored us and sprayed the site with borderline-nonsense questions. The only redeeming quality was that they were obviously earnest, even if they were unable to extract any useful advice from our answers. They were unable to adapt to a reading-centric site, and left. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 12, 2012 at 6:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ For an example of a good newbie question, there's this: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/11033/… . It's very, very new-level, but an excellent question. Contrast it with this question: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/15572/… . We're really not being down on plain ol' new players and basic questions, but on users who are abusing the site—even if accidentally—by posting "is water wet? p. 23 says so, but could you tell me?" questions. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 12, 2012 at 6:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ Actually, I should amend that: they probably not so much left as got hit with an automatic site-ban triggered by having 95% of their questions closed. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 12, 2012 at 6:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ Here's why I brought up "What is 1d8?" in my post. It's useful for novices running into terms that simple aren't defined in a particular book. Coming from a guy who's reading the D&D book for the first time (where they are, in the front), it shows a general confusion: he's looked at the first few pages of the book and what you do with the book (which, for game manuals, is actually a pretty idiosyncratic thing that has very little in common with how you use other books) hasn't clicked yet. So answering the question won't even come close to solving his problem. (Extended dialogue will.) \$\endgroup\$
    – Alex P
    Commented Aug 13, 2012 at 16:40

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