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The question Centaurs, do they have control of their bodily functions? asks what I consider to be a legitimate question (albeit containing misconceptions about real-world zoology) about a fictional species that appears in RPGs.

Are questions about species appearing in roleplaying games that require research outside the rules in the specified RPG system on-topic?

EDIT:

To address Brian Ballsum-Stanton's comment regarding the meta question Are campaign research questions on topic?, Is this sort of question campaign research, which that Meta question's consensus appears to suggest is on-topic?

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TL;DR: the question was closed as poorly asked, not as off topic. If it were better asked, we'd know with more clarity whether or not it's on topic. However, non-setting-specific research questions about non-mechanical elements of play are generally going to be a bad fit for this site.

I think this is getting mis-framed. There's no doubt that the question can be answered, nor that it can be relevant to the RPG experience. Arguments based on that line of reasoning aren't going to get anywhere because they aren't what's being challenged.

This is a matter of how wide RPG.SE can cast its net without losing its focus, and it's a discussion which has been going on for some time.

An important thing to remember is that SE is explicitly uninterested in being like other sites. A common evaluative tool for site scope is to ask whether another site would do it equally well or better--in this case, RPG forums. This is why "it's useful" isn't always sufficient to justify on-topic-ness--for example, questions which solicit unending iterative lists are perfectly suited for forums but very poorly suited for SE.

These meta threads seem to be the most useful for seeing the reasoning behind the site's current approach to the site's scope for setting/worldbuilding questions:

Are campaign research questions on topic? / Are campaign research questions on topic, part two?

Why did the automobiles and telephones thread close?

What do games like Cthulhu require of Campaign Research Questions?

Are 'fluff' setting related questions relevant?

In particular I draw our attention to this observation about the divergence between the community's theory and the community's practice.

You'll see that it's not cut and dried, but there is a sense that a line must be drawn--otherwise everything becomes on-topic because there are RPGs about everything. Exactly where that line's drawn is an ongoing community-driven conversation. At the moment, the community seems to think science-based non-system-influenced questions about fantasy biology is a little too far afield.

Personally, I feel that if the Animal Planet channel could do a special which satisfactorily answers the question, it's not specific enough to RPGs for this site to field without excessively diluting our focus. (See: mermaids, dragons, etc.)

This question is speculative and framed as an abstract ponderment rather than a practical request for advice about a challenge or problem the querent is facing. This puts up warning flags, because such questions are usually either invitations to discussion or have something very specific in mind which they haven't communicated (so answers are just guessing what problem we're being asked to solve, and the querent is likely to respond "but what about X thing I didn't mention?"). When this kind of question becomes a regular problem an SE site either bans them entirely or imposes stricter limits on them (see ). The thing to do is to ask the querent to edit the question so it includes what prompted them to ask it.

The subject material in this case is unaddressed by its RPG context (bowel movements in D&D are purely the subject of third party and homebrew content), and while plausible biology-based answers can be provided, they will always be founded on shaky assumptions which makes them opinion-based rather than objectively accurate answers (for example, the assumption that a creature which looks like two other creatures but has abilities like darkvision shared by neither of them is similar to them in ways other than gross appearance--an assumption proven false multiple times in D&D by the presence of various "mimic" style monsters). The question is not asking about behavioural choices, but only about physical ability, so the setting's social context (and it's useful to note that encompasses many diverse settings rather than being itself a setting tag) is irrelevant to answers unless we read more into the question than is actually there--in which case we should, again, be asking the querent for clarification to improve the question instead of answering based on our interpretation of insufficient information.

The best answer for the question as written is "D&D 3.5 doesn't tell us anything about that," followed by some advice about where to go from there based on the answerer's experience with bowel movements in RPGs (there's something I never thought I'd type). See this question and its answer as an example of a question which gives context and an answer which gives guidance rather than speculation. Any further answer must necessarily be re-framing the question, which is fine but should follow the guidelines laid out in this thread--and again, it'd probably be better to ask the querent for clarification.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Do we want to address the "Lawful Good Gnome monk Paladin with a decanter of endless water jetpack and vow of poverty performing morally ambiguous acts" slippery slope? \$\endgroup\$ – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Jun 6 '14 at 1:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BrianBallsun-Stanton I think you have more access and experience to make that decision and be able to cover it than I do. Edit it into my question if you don't think it's worth a separate post. \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Jun 6 '14 at 1:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BESW, what if the answer changes with the specific RPG system? In D&D 3.5, Centaurs are civilized. In Ars Magica, they're sentient but IMO too bestial to care. \$\endgroup\$ – Monty Wild Jun 6 '14 at 3:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MontyWild I think you're reading more intent into the question than is actually present. The question you're imagining probably would be a better question for the site, but it doesn't exist: they're just asking if centaurs can control their bowels, not if or why they do or do not--nor do we know why they're asking. If you want to help the querent convey the actual challenge they're facing, that'd be awesome and probably improve the question immensely. \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Jun 6 '14 at 3:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BESW, so we just ignore the tags, then? \$\endgroup\$ – Monty Wild Jun 6 '14 at 3:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BESW, anyway, the querent doesn't seem to have cared enough (or got the answer he wanted) to try to get the question reopened himself. \$\endgroup\$ – Monty Wild Jun 6 '14 at 3:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Monty When there are fundamental problems with a question's content or context, the tags are irrelevant. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jun 6 '14 at 3:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MontyWild To buttress what SSD said, tags are editable for a reason. \$\endgroup\$ – C. Ross Jun 6 '14 at 11:03
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The problem is not that the question is unanswerable, it's that it's not specific to RPGs.

Centaurs are a staple of fantasy, directly from Greek mythology, so there's no real reason to ask about them in this site, except if the question is about how the system manages them (e.g. dragons' skill points, pixie's mode of flight).

Wondering about how a centaur defecates is a question that could be interesting given the right context (a centaur attending a ceremony maybe?) but it's not specific to D&D centaurs in any way. Since the rules say nothing about defecation (and I don't expect any RPG except F.A.T.A.L. to have rules on that), the D&D monster could be expected to behave just like the original creature it stems from.

This is no more about RPGs, it's about fantasy. Not our field of expertise.
Even if it's not the field of expertise of some other site on the .SE network, this doesn't mean it should be posted here. There's plenty of places outsside .SE it could go.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I completely agree. It's also worth noting that it's firmly situated in the assumptions of any given campaign setting, many fundamental biological assumptions change by setting. \$\endgroup\$ – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Jun 6 '14 at 0:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Zachiel, is it not relevant how a player or GM plays a non-human species in a RPG? In any RPG, some more than others, a degree of extrapolation is required, and some people are more or less able to extrapolate such things than others, hence why I believe these questions are relevant. This question was about a "creature that it stems from". \$\endgroup\$ – Monty Wild Jun 6 '14 at 0:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MontyWild There is no reason a RPG expert should be more qualified to answer it, since it's basically about veterinary and fantasy. By your reasoning, one could always find a higher level of abstraction where anything has somenthing to do with RPGs and make questions about basically anything. \$\endgroup\$ – Zachiel Jun 6 '14 at 0:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BrianBallsun-Stanton, I agree that many fundamental biological assumptions can change by setting, but I also believe that they do not unless the game rules say that they do. To assume otherwise would leave a game more open to rules abuse, and can lead to a world that the players are unable to understand. \$\endgroup\$ – Monty Wild Jun 6 '14 at 0:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Zachiel, Roleplaying games are by their nature somewhat open-ended, so a lot of questions you might not otherwise expect could indeed be relevant. I'm basing relevance on: "Where else could this question about a species appearing in this RPG be answered?" Say, Species X appears in RPG Y, which does not state any rules about Z. Either the GM rules arbitrarily, or to get a more believable answer, asks someone else, "How does Z work in RPG Y's Species X? Who else but a RPer with expertise in Z in real species would be able and interested enough to answer? \$\endgroup\$ – Monty Wild Jun 6 '14 at 0:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ Monty, you clearly have a horse in this race. Please pose an answer that we can vote on. \$\endgroup\$ – Brian Ballsun-Stanton Jun 6 '14 at 0:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BrianBallsun-Stanton I just noticed this pun. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Sep 6 '16 at 16:52
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Simply put as the person who asked the initial question, it was from a campaign perspective as we had a player character in a D&D 3.5 game who was playing a centaur. Part of our task was to climb down a descent that was very steep and rocky. Knowing we'd have to climb up again and also knowing that the centaur was not in back of the party we wanted to ensure that we were not going to have some incidents where we would slip on "materials deposited" so to speak.

Maybe my assumption was incorrect in that I felt if a question pertaining to a mythological figure was presented within the RPG section of Stack Overflow, then by nature it would have been considered a valid RPG question.

Also, given that I've been a player from version 1 on, I had also incorrectly assumed that some questions would be left to the imagination as the game (when played correctly) leaves some part for imagination, conjecture and discussion. I realize now that later versions, as they are tailored for younger players, have very specific and mathematical rules to be followed. Specifically version 4.

Yes, I know the subject is crass and distasteful, but let's face it, we are playing a game where we decapitate and kill a multitude of creatures.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Editing your original question to include that context --the situation which prompted you to ask it-- would go a long way to getting the question re-opened. The problem was not the content so much as the way it was asked. The more information you can give us about the context of your problem, the more we can give you clear, specific, actionable solutions (instead of vague unfocused answers or guesswork), and that's the goal of the Stack. \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Aug 25 '16 at 22:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ OK, understood. Thank you, and questions will be better posed in the future. \$\endgroup\$ – Vinnie Saletto Aug 31 '16 at 15:14
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I say "Yes", on the basis of the relevancy of such questions to RPG SE. Would they fit on Mythology SE or Worldbuilding SE if they ever go beyond the commitment phase? Perhaps, but at the time I write this answer, they have not. Would they fit on SciFi SE? Perhaps, but we are more likely to find people knowledgeable about RPGs on RPG SE.

I would suggest that RPG SE is the best place for such questions as it is really only role players and world builders who might ask such questions and find the answers relevant, and at present RPG SE is the only active SE site that deals with world building, in addition to which, these are questions about species appearing in specific RPGs, and RPG SE is the best place to find people with the relevant expertise in the RPG in question.

I agree that RPG SE should not necessarily be a source for answer on any imaginable topic appearing in RPGs. Some of those could quite easily be answered by someone who has never even heard of RPGs. For example, someone reading the online D&D rules about centaurs and not knowing what a centaur is could find out simply by doing a web search without cluttering up RPG SE with a question.

However, if a question addresses a species appearing in a particular RPG, that is hardly a non-specific question. An answer would require knowledge of the RPG in question, as well as the ability to extrapolate from material available in the RPG, as well as applying other expertise. I suggest that these sorts of questions are entirely relevant.

In the question my meta question addresses, general questions about centaurs could be addressed by referencing the Wikipedia Centaur article, but the example question was asking something much more specific, about a particular species appearing in D&D 3.5.

Had the question included an [Ars-Magica] tag rather than a [Dnd-3.5e] tag, my answer may well have been different, as in Ars Magica, Centaurs live like beasts and are happy to do so. They would not care about social disapproval. Hence again the relevance of the question.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Could you please make clearer how this addresses the idea that RPG.SE doesn't want to become a clearing house for everything tangentially RPG-related, nor does it want to duplicate services provided by forums and other online communities? Are you challenging these notions fundamentally, or accepting them but arguing that they aren't important to this specific case? \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Jun 6 '14 at 1:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ If the original question had been about one of the practical RPG applications you mention—worldbuilding, or roleplaying a pooping centaur convincingly—then it would have been a RPG problem, and our expertise would be relevant. It was not about a practical RPGing problem though—the problem was "I am curious about what is true about centaur biology." That practical problem has no RPG component, hence is off-topic. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jun 6 '14 at 2:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ What rules in 3.5 make you think D&D 3.5 centaurs are distinct enough from general mythological centaurs that the Wikipedia article about them could not answer your question? \$\endgroup\$ – Oblivious Sage Jun 6 '14 at 2:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie, the question was, "What is true about D&D 3.5 centaur biology", which I suggest is on-topic. While the D&D 3.5 rules do not mention the particular details of the question, the OP may not know that, and it is a question for which it is possible aor a person with the necessary expertise to logically derive an answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Monty Wild Jun 6 '14 at 2:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ In response to that, I can only echo @ObliviousSage's question? \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jun 6 '14 at 2:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ObliviousSage, Having looked at Wikipedia Centaurs, the information there is too general to directly answer the question that was asked. While D&D 3.5 centaurs' rules entry does not specify much further, the rules for other RPGs in which centaurs appear may well be that specific. I write my own rules for my game worlds, and I get very specific, so there is no reason other RPG authors would not too. How do we know something is not in the rules we don't have access to yet? \$\endgroup\$ – Monty Wild Jun 6 '14 at 2:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MontyWild Maybe asking about race biology would be OK, in general, but being specific: you're asking about whether a centaur can handle not pooping everywhere. I don't think anyone has cared to write about that either way. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jun 6 '14 at 2:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ So if I ask "What is true about the Russian Revolution of 1917 in Call of Cthulhu?" that would be on topic because Call of Cthulhu has no rules about it but I might not know that? This is the kind of thing we're talking about: you're asking for a general policy change based on the qualities of a specific question, rather than asking for that question to be reviewed for re-opening independently. The former requires a much more rigorous argument than the latter. \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Jun 6 '14 at 2:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JonathanHobbs, my answer was derived from a logical extension of the D&D 3.5 rules (not much), and what my degree in the life sciences (particularly zoology) tells me about teeth and mammalian biology. Sure, it is derivative, but the D&D 3.5 rules don't say more, and it is logical to extrapolate from what we do know. For me, that Centaur question was a general question. \$\endgroup\$ – Monty Wild Jun 6 '14 at 2:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BESW, That CoC question could be answered, "There are no published scenarios involving that", or we could vote to close it (IMO against the Meta opinion that it could be on-topic). However, you make a good point, I agree that each such case should be considered separately. \$\endgroup\$ – Monty Wild Jun 6 '14 at 2:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ That's why we come up with rules here on Meta: so that we don't have to consider each case separately. If there is a general category of questions that is usually not on topic (such as your centaur question and @BESW's hypothetical CoC question), then it's simpler to ban them in general rather than argue about them every time. \$\endgroup\$ – Oblivious Sage Jun 6 '14 at 2:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ This question a) obviously requires speculation and b) is not specifically in RPG scope. Therefore it's not appropriate for the site. I understand "you didn't know this before you asked" - but now you do. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Jun 6 '14 at 2:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ Reality suggests they are not, when they are not scoped to RPGs and best asked on history or another venue. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Jun 6 '14 at 3:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ Not here. Possibly nowhere. Probably not a SE as they frown on speculation, which this explicitly asks for. Any RPG forum, or mythological creatures forum, or... We don't require a specific alternate location to know something's off topic here. And this is. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Jun 6 '14 at 3:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Monty On the subject of logical extension, we also have some metas around dealing with that regarding physics. They're generally considered way more problematic than the little value the resulting hypothetical yet logical answers ever have. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jun 6 '14 at 3:46

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