Recently we've had two questions that have attempted to reach beyond to scope of the game they were questioning.

The first one, found here, was closed as off-topic for treating D&D 3.5e like a physics engine.

The second one, found here, was not.

I know they vary slightly, but they were both asking for situations that were not covered by the rules because they were attempting to 'over-emulate' real life within the game. The answers were essentially the same and boiled down to "The game doesn't do this for you, so you will have to figure it out on your own."

With very similar answers why was one closed as off-topic and the other not?

If the only reason (as hinted by the replies to my comments on the second link) was a tag then I vote the first question have the rules-lawyering tag removed and then be re-opened.

Essentially the real issue here is When are questions that attempt to add 'real-life' elements into a game okay?

P.S.: I didn't flag the second question because I felt an opportunity for a re-worked question was better than a simple shut-down.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I've tagged this with [Discussion] but is that proper? Should I have left it untagged? \$\endgroup\$
    – Jason_c_o
    Apr 2, 2014 at 17:00
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ No. One of discussion, bug, support or feature-request are required. on-topic might be appropriate here as well. \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    Apr 2, 2014 at 17:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ I am a little surprised the latter has no close votes at all. \$\endgroup\$
    – C. Ross
    Apr 2, 2014 at 20:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ @C.Ross It did, but the person crusading to close it was so rude and obnoxious that I suspect no one wanted to add their vote because it felt like agreeing with her rudeness. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Apr 3, 2014 at 12:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan That didn't help, for sure. I know I wound up telling that person to stop being so argumentative in the comments instead of worrying about close votes. It was ridiculous. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tridus
    Apr 3, 2014 at 12:49

5 Answers 5


There is big difference in the two questions.

The first is a purely theoretical "apply RPG mechanics to real world stuff" and the second is "What are the implications of X in my game?"

That's basically the big difference. The first isn't related to something that could potentially come up in gameplay and the second is.

Both generally run afoul of this quote in the help center:

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

But, the second is far closer to the realm of the possibility than the first.

  • \$\begingroup\$ There are certainly ways to make thermonuclear reaction in game. See the "Polymorph any Object". There are possible more ways to get the same result \$\endgroup\$
    – ayvango
    Apr 3, 2014 at 5:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ So, even ignoring what they're actually asking, its still off topic because it isn't addressing a real problem? Shouldn't the second question be closed, then? \$\endgroup\$
    – Jason_c_o
    Apr 3, 2014 at 7:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also, to re-iterate: When is it okay to ask questions like these? Where is the arbitrary line between "couldn't come up" and "might never come up?" \$\endgroup\$
    – Jason_c_o
    Apr 3, 2014 at 7:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Jason_c_o Both are pretty borderline. The second at least has clear game-mechanical trappings. The first doesn't seem to specify any real mechanical effects to show that he's getting at something in game. That said, this stuff is gnome physics all over again and we have a long and terrible history with those. At the very least the second one is less hypothetical, but that's a subjective guideline \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    Apr 3, 2014 at 10:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ayvango yet your question asks this is in pure theoretical terms rather than asking what the effects of said detonation would be. Be specific. \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    Apr 3, 2014 at 10:45

One question seems to be expecting or even demanding that their real-life intuitions are modelled by the game, while the other seems to be very much asking what the game already does. The difference is subtle, but directly impacts how the questions are framed and reflect the problem each is trying to solve. The difference is:

  • How does the game handle X?

    This is much simpler to answer. Sometimes "it doesn't" will be the answer, sometimes "That's up to you", sometimes "It doesn't, but here's how you could", or sometimes even "there's a rule for that! Here it is."

    Because the asker isn't presuming a bunch of false or problematic things, just asking how it does work and only softly mentioning their real-world intuitions as the prompt for asking, they're not pushing their assumptions to the forefront and demanding they be accommodated.

  • How does the game handle X, given YZW and Q?

    Here, if Y, Z, W, and Q aren't even true about the game, the asker seems to be expecting that false things be accommodated by the answers. Possibly the question is ill-formed. Possibly, it's just something that the community doesn't want to deal with. You can try to answer it by challenging the frame of the question, but it's likely going to result in debate with the asker while they attempt to tell you that no, YZWQ are true, of course they're true.

The difference then is that people will shut down questions that seem to be impossible to answer given the insistence of contradictory requirements. A very similar question might attract no such negative voting attention though, simply by appearing to permit correction.

For example, the latter sort of question will sometimes be fine, even with false assumptions, if it seems amenable to correction in answers. It entirely depends on how it's asked, and how aggressively the false assumptions are presented. If they're merely misapprehensions that seem readily corrected, then the question is unlikely to give people a "eugh, I don't want to even deal with it" reaction and won't attract close votes. For example, in the form "How does the game handle X? I believe YZW and Q, and so it all doesn't make sense," the question is almost inviting correction. It may still be difficult to convince the asker, but answers that clear up the confusion by pointing to the misunderstanding will often be accepted.


The two questions are fundamentally different. The second (open) one is after a bunch of preamble, asking this:

In other words - can Minor Creation be used for constant food supplying, or it is basically a bad idea?

Given that there already is a spell that can do constant food supplying (Create Food), this can be answered by comparing the mechanics of the two spells and what, if anything, the game says about food. The rules in this case don't have any clear answers, but the question is about a specific effect of a specific spell in a specific situation, compared to some other spell that does the same thing.

Maybe an edit for clarity would be helpful, but that's an answerable question.

The first (closed) question reads like something from a physics exam. There are no rules based answers at all, and any answer other than "make something up and call it a house rule" is going to be relying on physics knowledge way out of scope of RPG.SE.

If you look at the answers, that's pretty much what happened.


I think that the first question would be better suited on the WB.SE rather than the RPG.SE. It's question format, asking how something would work lacking any particular mention of a specific system on a generally accepted trope to fantasy games, seems like it would belong there.I am am aware it is tagged as D&D 3.5e but there is no mention of it or it's wording on the subject in the question, neither is there a game play example.
It's because that it fits so well into another sites domain I understand why it would be closed and agree with the dicsion.

As for the second question, that is asking how a particular spell works, and what affects it will have on the (N)PC. Though this could be quite a subjective answer, and might be better suited to a discussion in chat or on another forum it still fits within what I consider this sites accepted questions.

When are real life questions acceptable?

I would say when they have a direct bearing on the game and the enjoyment of it by the the players. Some DM's want to bring a splash of reality into their games, weather it is carrying capacities, starvation rules or some other such scenario.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Only realizing how old this post is now. Sorry! \$\endgroup\$ Aug 27, 2016 at 12:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ there's no such thing as an 'old post' here. If you feel you have something to add that existing answers do not, then feel free to add your own answer \$\endgroup\$
    – Wibbs
    Aug 27, 2016 at 13:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ "It's because that it fits so well into another sites domain I understand why it would be closed and agree with the dicsion." Since we don't close questions on the basis another site accepts them (there's always overlap) I think it's more accurate to say it's just not within our site's domain -- it's real-world topic research which draws upon no RPG expertise. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 28, 2016 at 16:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ Worldbuilding post-dates the closed question by almost six months; each Stack is happy to be part of the wider Internet community and let other sites take up the questions that we're unsuited to answer, but the existence or non-existence of another venue for a question should never be a contributing factor in our close decisions. Our topicality is about what we can do well, not what other sites can do well. \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Aug 29, 2016 at 3:22

I've repeatedly meet "the game is not a physic simulation" answer. And most commentators suppose that there are no ways for in-game mechanic to place a character into specified ambiguity.

But I may prove that some of cases seeming to be impossible are actually feasible.

First of all physics works in any fantasy world, it is objective phenomena. Different worlds may have different physics laws, possibly totally undiscovered by it inhabitants. But this laws exist however not formulated. You may use well-known natural science way of hypotheses testing to bring light upon this laws.

There are two approaches for inserting magic into a fantasy world. You may totally override all casual physical laws or you may enrich them with magic in so in most times normal laws are applicable and only in specific cases magic cheats the normal laws.

The first way be used in fiction where all characters obey the writer and exposes supernatural laws to the chosen degree that the writer can control. But considering open nature of the rpg worlds, the world author can not control character actions, so he generally prefers the second way.

Suppose a character happen to be into a magic world. Then he performs sequence of experiments that are described into the school science course. If they give him the same result (in a situation where magic interference reduced to zero) than all well-known physics laws are still on service. Even if electromagnetic field is replaced with electromagnetic elemental.

Suppose that the fantasy universe follows the first methods of building "everything is magic". Then some of experiments should go out of conventional way. It means that every one consequence of this behavior should be considered by the realm author. Say kinetic theory of gases ceases to work. The author should replace diffusion, temperature-density relationship and other properties of gases with custom ones. You may effectively ban ICE with the cost of redefining all the atmosphere processes in your fictional world. And every player would pay attention to different aspects of magical universe laws, so the author would had hard times describing non-contradictory world

Taking "magic is only cheat to normal laws" is much easier to describe. And all d&d realms follows that way. They describes earth-like planets with a sun and closely adjacent axial tilt. Only minor aspects are modified with magic. So all mundane engineering devices would work in this universe too.

The meta-gaming objection "your character may not know what is known to you" may be fired. But note a typical d&d wizard. It has 30 inherited intelligence attribute by 20th level. Basic 18 + 2 as racial bonus to grey elf + 5 as level-dependent bonuses + 5 from wishes. Einstein has at most 25 Int attribute in the d&d scale. If player has a free time he can pursue physic laws by series of experiments each step based on previous and small enough to take appropriate Int test. His magic gives the wizard large advantage in setting such experiments. He may produce large variety of needed devices with magic. Shadow conjuration, wish, polymorph any object, other spells (and note that d&d permits to develop custom spells).

  • \$\begingroup\$ You make some interesting points, but the reason for closing the closed question was not "the game uses magic to explain this, therefore there is no explanation" but "the game provides no explanation for this, therefore there is no explanation." You're right that a GM could invent some laws to govern the gap in the rules, but the fact that the gap in the rules requires GM creativity to fix means that the question becomes primarily opinion-based. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Apr 3, 2014 at 6:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ I catched reasons of closing my questions. Generally I ask questions that may be answered only with house rules and this sites prefers not to deal with house rules since they provoke discussion with no clear single answer possible. I just should find other resources for exchanging house rules applicable for odd sitations. Something like "write your own d&d together" \$\endgroup\$
    – ayvango
    Apr 3, 2014 at 6:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't see how we could have answered your question with anything other than house rules, unless one of us knows a lot about physics. It's functionally more a physics question than an RPG question. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tridus
    Apr 3, 2014 at 13:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ It more about player-DM agreement. I have two purposes behind the question. First. Ensure, that no RAW is applicable. Second. Find widely accepted interpretation/house-rules. It become clear that I know enough to decide RAW-ability by myself. And that I should seek house rules conventions somewhere else. House rules are not appropriate subject on this site. \$\endgroup\$
    – ayvango
    Apr 3, 2014 at 15:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ You may be happier with a game that actually works the way you describe above without house rules (despite your assertions to the contrary, D&D actually doesn't, by design, in all editions). What you're describing sounds a lot like what this person is describing, and there are a bunch of games that satisfy that need for the game to behave in line with your intuitions and natural laws. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 3, 2014 at 18:28

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