My question was mostly prompted by this question.
I find the question as originally asked either extremely broad (whole book broad) or totally unclear. Since it is not clear what is being asked, how can we say that it is a duplicate of another question?
Let me point out a couple things to reinforce my notion that the linked question is unclear, although the question in question is just a specific example. My question still stands whether this particular example seems clear to you or not.
One answer was posted before the question was posted. It talks about quick-start rules to help the asker create a character and gain familiarity with mechanics. This is completely different than the answers to the linked duplicate, which describe the basic concept of role-playing from a much higher level than the rules.
The asker specifically stated that they have been watching streams of DnD games, which indicates they are already familiar with the information presented in the answers to the linked duplicate. They even ask about creating characters, whereas the duplicate's answers inform the asker that there are characters.
In the question the asker wants to know "how to make characters etc". etc. What is et cetera in this context? What do they want to know? I certainly can't read minds.
Marking as a Duplicate is Confusing
Okay, so regardless of whether you agree about that question being clear or not, let's assume we have an unclear question. Why does that matter?
I was confused by this being marked as a duplicate, and I've been using this site pretty heavily for months. How is someone asking their first question supposed to interpret this?
The provided reason for the question being closed is:
This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.
Nowhere in there does it suggest editing the question or making it more clear. It doesn't say that the question "appears to be a duplicate". It says that it is a duplicate.
On the other hand, we have a different option specifically for this situation. We mark the question as "unclear what you're asking", and the user is told:
Please clarify your specific problem or provide additional details to highlight exactly what you need. The way the question is currenty written, it's hard to tell exactly what you're asking.
Which actually tells them what to do.
I asked BESW about this in the comments, and the response was:
result would be the same: a question on hold until edited for clarity so it can get useful answers. The reason for a close/hold does not influence the question's ability to get voted back open later
Perhaps it doesn't influence the questions ability to be repoened on the mods' end, but it certainly affects the users likelihood of editing for clarity, seeing as how there's no indication that that's what they're being asked to do.
To be fair, BESW did leave a comment suggesting editing for clarity at the time that the question was closed. Also to be fair, the big boxes on the screen saying it is closed as a duplicate are much larger and more official looking than this comment.
Basically, I don't think we can possibly know what the asker was actually asking, and I think that closing it like this makes it unlikely that we ever will.
Furthermore, assuming that users will be aware of the intricacies of the close/on hold system -- which I find incredibly counterintuitive -- is not an excuse for doing something that is functionally equivalent but appears quite different to the user.
So, therefore, we should use the tools and procedures we already have in place to handle such a question in the most effective manner possible so that we can not only maintain the quality of RPGSE, but - more importantly - actually help the asker.