I'm asking this because of this question: Looking for a WWII RPG that requires no adaptation/conversion

The question is simply asking whether games of a specific type exist. The question has been put on hold, and answers downvoted, because it has been deemed to be a bad game-recommendation question, and they want to give more specific advice for his personal situation. Basically, the question has been put on hold for not asking for opinions, but only for facts.

Having seen questions closed for asking for opinions (recommendations), I'm surprised to see the opposite also put on hold. Why is this? And is this really what we want?

Isn't SE also supposed to be a reference, rather than personal assistance? The answers to this question would make a great reference.


2 Answers 2


SE is meant to be a specific sort of reference. I'll quote our What types of questions should I avoid asking? guidance, which is consistent across the entire SE network:

You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face.

Most pertinently here: we are not interested in being a reference for endless lists of things. This is mainly because our voting and other feedback systems completely fall apart and become useless when faced with such a situation. Stack Exchange has chosen its niche to excel at, and this necessarily means it sucks at certain things. Lists are one of them.

What's wrong with the question exactly?

If you hadn't guessed it already, it's because it's going to compile a list. Every answer to that question is equally valid. There is no way to determine an objectively good answer, beyond whether that answer merely meets the criteria of being a WWII game or not.

This is primarily because it is not a practical, answerable question based on an actual problem. Let's break it down:

  • "Are there WWII RPGs?" is not a problem, just a point of curiousity. It is not practically answerable beyond "yes", and is more an invitation for a person to study further.
  • "What are they?" is also not a problem for similar reasons.
  • "I want to play something set in World War II, but I don't know what is available! What is there?" is a problem, but as covered in How to deal with questions that just don't understand the scope of the RPG landscape?, there is probably a phenomenal amount of available material. Thus, we will compile a list, and everything is good so long as it meets one single criteria. There is no way to vote for an answer being useful or not useful, other than it's a WWII game or not, and there is no single objectively correct answer, and no answer is better than any other, there are just a lot of them. Our system breaks down. This is why game-rec questions need specific criteria.
  • "I want to play something set in World War II. I want the game to involve doing X, Y and Z. A and B are crucial thematic elements and I don't want C. What games are there for me?" Now we're getting somewhere!

That last one can have an objective practical answer. As observers, we can judge whether each recommended system meets the given criteria, and how well it fulfils those criteria, and vote accordingly. Then our system handles it well.

The question just needs to specify some criteria for what it wants out of the game, and then it's golden.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Because I know this will come up: Keeping a question open-ended seems like it'd make the answers more useful to others, but it generally just produces vague, poor-quality answers with little useful detail. Specific advice can be generalised more usefully than general advice can be applied to specific cases. \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Commented Mar 25, 2014 at 13:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks, that clear up a lot. I'm not sure there really are that many WW2 games out there, though. There are bound to be some settings/genres that haven't been covered in lots of games yet. And even with lists, isn't an exhaustive list a better answer than one that mentions only a single game? \$\endgroup\$
    – mcv
    Commented Mar 25, 2014 at 13:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ @mcv No, because half the things on that list are going to be useless for the asker's purpose anyway, and there are plenty of games that can support the kinds of things the asker might want to do, and one of those might not even be explicitly a WWII game. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 25, 2014 at 13:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ @mcv List questions (while not in and of themselves inherently bad for SE) have lots of things that are liable to go wrong with them, and one issue is that a list like this cannot be exhaustive, by its very nature (I can come up with a half-dozen examples off the top of my head, but the problem isn't how many there are but how complete the list is). Thus you get "equally right" answers, which SE cannot abide because its entire evaluation system shrivels and dies. This is why questions which are liable to generate list answers have to meet even more stringent guidelines than others. \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Commented Mar 25, 2014 at 13:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ If the concern is "but other people might want to play WWII games, so shouldn't we make it as broad as possible?" - then no, because then everyone is given a useless list telling them what none of the things on there actually do. Better have several questions along the lines of: "I want to play a WWII game about X", "I want to play a WWII game about Y", and "I want to play a WWII game about Z", than just "I want to play a WWII game." And having those first three is actually good. For a similar issue, see this. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 25, 2014 at 13:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BESW "shrivels and dies" is an extreme overstatement. Two equally good answers can be voted up equally. In fact, I've seen superior answers get less up votes because they were given later than another also pretty good answer. I've even seen answers that don't even answer the question get more upvotes than the accepted answer. SE seems sturdy enough to handle that. \$\endgroup\$
    – mcv
    Commented Mar 25, 2014 at 14:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JonathanHobbs So suppose I want a WW2 game, but don't really care whether it's about X, Y or Z? Maybe I want them all, or maybe I won't know until I know what's available. Maybe I want to present the choices to my players. I think there's value in broad overview questions, and I think SE can handle that. \$\endgroup\$
    – mcv
    Commented Mar 25, 2014 at 14:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ Then you can check all three questions. All of them would be more useful than a list of games with no particular description which might even omit games like Fate which could do what you're after. And the Stack Exchange system has been around for six years, and we've learned a lot about what it can and can't handle. List questions have been banned for most of that time. That it is one of the few types of questions explicitly banned in all this time should be saying something. List questions can be handled, but they're handled extremely badly and are unwelcome. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 25, 2014 at 14:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for linking the "not understanding the scope of the RPG landscape" meta Q as it is quite relevant. @mcv, yes, there are twenty or more extant WWII games. I own 5 myself. Clarity is good. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Mar 25, 2014 at 19:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ This bureaucratic speculation has led to an important result: the revision of my question in an attempt to narrow down my criteria. It has not, however, answered my question. Is it wrong that I am open to multiple suggestions within certain limits (as succinctly described in my revised question)? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 25, 2014 at 23:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ @mcv "or maybe I won't know until I know what's available." If that is well and truly what someone's situation is, then an SE site simply can't help them. Fortunately, the web is wide and deep, and forum sites are excellent for solving that situation. SE doesn't try to be all things to all people, so that it can better be one thing to some people. We heartily recommend forums for people who want more open-ended explorations of RPGs. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 26, 2014 at 16:19

Part of the problem is that the question only superficially seemed like it was asking for mere existence. The second paragraph of the original version started talking about what the asker would like or enjoy in a WWII game—clearly, they're asking not because they simply want a yes/no answer to "do they exist?", they actually want to find a game they would enjoy with the intention of playing. The current version of the answer confirms this was the case: they are thinking of running a very specific kind of WWII game and are looking for a system to do it with.

I do think that mere existence is a valid question to ask, to answer your titular question. But I think it will rarely be asked in a valid way—as part of a real problem. I can imagine a researcher asking "does X exist?" and explaining that they're just trying to get a grip on the field, and that could be valid. Answers to that wouldn't be recommendations, just throw out a couple names as evidence for the yes/no part of the answer. Answers that veer into recommendation territory would be off-topic and deletable, keeping the question manageable.

So yes, mere existence is a valid question, but rarely is mere existence actually what someone is asking about.

(Incidentally, now that the question has been refined down to an on-topic problem, I do think your original answer is on-topic and you should consider undeleting it so that it can be upvoted now, for the right reasons.)

  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, but others have already posted the same answer in a more extensive way. \$\endgroup\$
    – mcv
    Commented Mar 26, 2014 at 17:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mcv Sort of. The other answer says mere existence is off topic, and I disagree with that. I think it can be, though often won't be for unrelated reasons. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 26, 2014 at 19:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ I was not trying to say a question about mere existence is off topic, just point out why this particular question was problematic. As you've pointed out, it can be a valid question given the right situation, though it being such will not be common. Overall I find this to be a very good answer that you've provided. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 27, 2014 at 1:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ I kinda disagree - "are there some" should be sourced by going and doing a trivial search on rpggeek or drivethroughrpg. Oh look, there are. Next question. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Mar 27, 2014 at 11:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk Most of the time, yeah, but I can imagine rarer genres that would be resistant to trivial research and present an actual problem determining the existence of. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 27, 2014 at 14:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ Then on that fine day when someone comes up with one, we won't close it. "But this is not that day!" \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Apr 1, 2014 at 12:23

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