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In the help, valid comments are referred to thusly:

Use comments to ask for more information or clarify a question or answer.

So, that I get... when the question/answer isn't clear, you ask to get more information. But there are a couple of other murkier situations.

Specifically, we will be referring to the following comment for my questions:

Why not just run dungeon world? Honestly Dungeon World and D&D have explicitly different goals when it comes to mechanics and story. – Joshua Aslan Smith, yesterday

The OP asked what I considered a very well structured, very concise question (still wondering why it was closed). He gave his background, which included the fact that he'd run Dungeon World. And he wanted to take some of the mechanics over to D&D Next.

This comment made sense to me:

Do you need to know the probabilities? Is this knowledge desired for designing the mechanic (though I'm not sure why, as it seems to be finished), or to be able to estimate probabilities when GMing? If the latter, why? – SevenSidedDie, yesterday

I personally didn't see why he needed to know the probabilities. But I suppose for balancing sake, that might be why he'd need it, which is why I wouldn't have asked... just assumed that.

But the comment in question referred him back to the system that he was trying to take the mechanic from, with a comment that the systems were meant for different things.

I guess what struck me about that was the fact that it wasn't informing him of anything that he hadn't already seen (i.e. he was trying to do this and he'd not seen the other system), and the answer to the comment wouldn't clarify the question any further.

So I'm genuinely wondering about the nature of such commentary. I've just been personally trying to limit/eliminate my comments after a recent meta question, and this caught my attention because of it.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ "(still wondering why it was closed)" - because it was unclear. It wasn't to you and some other folks, so now it's reopened, and all's well and good. With the edits, it's also much better, and I can actually understand what's being asked for now. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jun 24 '14 at 22:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JonathanHobbs - At the time I wrote this, Wax Eagle hadn't added that clarification- which I think was sorely needed. I see your reasons behind it now as something tangible, even if I didn't agree with it even as it was originally written, which is why I immediately voted to re-open without edits. Without clarification, it didn't make sense- one of the downfalls of the canned responses (and majority vote ruling on the reason). \$\endgroup\$ – Chuck Dee Jun 25 '14 at 16:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'll bear that in mind and leave a comment mentioning I don't understand the question next time. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jun 26 '14 at 1:16
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I, too, find that first comment you quoted problematic. I don't think that the literal content of it was an issue. It seems reasonable to want to know the asker's motives for importing a mechanic into another system.

The issue I have with the comment is that it is very aggressive. Rather than assuming the asker has legitimate reasons for mixing the systems and simply requesting they be described in the question, this comment suggests that what the asker is doing is wrong, and tells them to defend their decision.

The other comment is better in this respect, though it does still come across a bit accusatory. Opening with "Could you explain why X?" I think would have been better in both cases.

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Personally, these seem like answers to the question where the answerer is trying to address the fundamental issue (i.e. the question asker wants a certain type of dice mechanic, and has already assumed they must make it themselves when a different system might be a better solution). However, because they do not answer the question as stated, the answerer doesn't want to post it as an answer - it would probably be downvoted. Thus, they post it as a comment to try to get the asker to reach the real problem they are having.

There's a meta post about that situation here. It's site policy to try to get people who are asking for help with their solution to a problem to post the original problem instead, as they may be going down the wrong track. Whether that is useful in this case is unclear - I think the question was more about dice probabilities and the background was designed to make it on-topic (a purely number-based question would be better asked elsewhere, while this type is generally acceptable here) - if it had been left off, the question might have been migrated.

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I see Joshua’s comment as quite distinctly appropriate, asking for clarification: the question asked for a version of D&D, which means Dungeon World would not have been an appropriate answer. However, based on that comment, Joshua seems to have felt that Dungeon World did seem to be an appropriate answer aside from the request that the answer take the form of a particular edition of D&D.

Thus, he wanted clarification on the question: based on the question’s parameters, Dungeon World seemed like a good answer to Joshua, but then the question barred it as a valid option. Without knowing why Dungeon World was a verboten answer, he couldn’t know how to answer:

  • does he try to challenge the question, suggest Dungeon World despite the request for a version of D&D? If so, he’s going to need to know what those reasons are if he’s going to meaningfully challenge them.

  • Or does he accept the reasons as good reasons to exclude Dungeon World, and use those to educate an answer that suggests a particular edition of D&D? Again, in order to do that, he needs to know what those reasons are.

And, of course, Joshua may not have been asking for himself: he may have merely been asking for the sake of the rest of the community who might consider answering, or even (or especially!) for the sake of the asker himself, who may not have heard of Dungeon World in the first place.

All of these are good reasons to seek clarification. Without knowing why Dungeon World wasn’t included in the list of possible answers, he couldn’t meaningfully challenge that requirement, nor could he simply accept the requirement because without those reasons, the correct answer in his mind would have been Dungeon World and he had no information with which to choose differently.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The question was about probabilities for a mechanic that he'd already figured out for including the mechanic of Dungeon World which he'd already played into D&D. That's why it confused me. He'd already played Dungeon World- which was why he fell in love with the mechanic. I did something similar for Fate... hacking it to make it more World like, so I guess I had more insight on where he was coming from- you like a specific mechanic, but your group likes the *whole of another system better. \$\endgroup\$ – Chuck Dee Jun 25 '14 at 16:13

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