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On the one hand, this question here about what RPG.SE is, and this answer here about answering FATE questions, specify "[this site] is a collection of expert knowledge" and "Expert questions to be answered by Experts". On the other hand, the help page states

Anybody can ask a question

Anybody can answer

and this answer has several newbie-friendly nuggets of wisdom. This question is encouraging, too.

In the question about FATE, one bit of an answer stated:

It seems like people are so bogged down with non-expert fate questions that the first instinct is to give an answer suited for a beginner in the system and not an expert.

This points out that there are non-experts asking questions, that they are many (how are they bogging down people otherwise?), and that they aren't really welcome (at least, not by the answerer): they ask the "wrong" sort of questions.

So which is it?

I ask because I'm not an expert on D&D 4E, 2E, Numenera or Fiasco. I just play and GM them. I have very limited time and chances to play, often having dry spells of months between 4-hour sessions. I enjoy rereading my corebooks and splats, but without actual playtime, my questions and answers will never actually be of "expert level".

The help page is inclusive, and makes me feel I can actually ask questions here. The first answers and comments cited don't, they make me feel that I can at best lurk and check from time to time if something interesting shows up. In the end, I feel I'm almost restating this question, though not exactly.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Notable context which shouldn't alter your basic premise: the first question you link is from waaay back in the day, probably during the site's beta when they were still trying to hash out this place's ethos, so it's not necessarily going to accurately reflect the current attitude (although it may, but more recent meta posts would be a better gauge). The Fate question whose answer you linked is mine, and I think its problems were better addressed by this subsequent meta post. \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Jul 15 '14 at 21:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also I'm reasonably sure that the person featured in the question you're semi-restating has since become a significant contributor to the site; I hope he can weigh in on his experience. \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Jul 15 '14 at 21:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ You're quite right about the age of the first link, but since the second link follows the same line, I'd like to know better. \$\endgroup\$ – Adriano Varoli Piazza Jul 15 '14 at 21:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ As for challenging the frame of a question, I'm all for it... But it's not what I ask about. \$\endgroup\$ – Adriano Varoli Piazza Jul 15 '14 at 21:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ I bring it up because it's another post about the same problem, but the answer is framed in a way which gives querents a bit more credit. I find that hopeful for your thesis. \$\endgroup\$ – BESW Jul 15 '14 at 21:44
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If you play RPGs, you're an expert and welcome.

The line "Asking Expert questions, getting expert answers" has a particular history dating to when it was just the original three sites. "Expert questions" was important because they didn't want to teach askers the basics of how to program. Being an expert meant that you already knew how to program and what programming meant.

The parallel here isn't perfect, so those words aren't so meaningful here. In practice we're OK fielding a question that is asking to be taught what RPGs are, so long as we don't get too many of them. We're not interested in teaching every comer how to RPG, so mostly we end up closing them as unclear or duplicates of the two or three existing questions about getting started. But we have them.

So what does that say about where we draw the line between expert and non-expert?

  • All it takes to be an expert is actual experience playing RPGs
  • If you're new to RPGs, all it takes to be accepted is knowing enough to be able to ask a coherent question about how to learn more.

So the bar for "expert" here is extremely low. Which makes sense, because it's such a niche hobby that if you even know it exists enough to ask a meaningful question, you probably actually know quite a bit of the basics already.

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(This answer is not about the linked post(s), it is in general)

The "expert" terminology is from an earlier rev of Stack Exchange, where Stack Overflow and the other sites tended to talk about "expert" users, and have since moved to terminology like "professional and enthusiast" or similar.

So no, you don't have to be an expert to use the site.

Asking

To ask a question, you should however have tried to get understanding on your own. "I don't want to read the rulebook, read it to me" is unacceptable and off topic. Look at the downvote tooltip, it says:

This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful

We have a couple placeholder questions to help orient the "I likey the RPGs where do I start" folks that show up, but we don't want a huge amount of that on the site. Read the book, watch a YouTube video, then bother other people to give you more handholding. Doing it prior to that is frankly rude and answering them is just feeding their general personality problem of lack of ability to learn. See https://meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/257868/can-we-please-have-the-lacks-minimal-understanding-close-reason-back for the SO discussion, "close as Unclear" is the consensus.

Answering

To answer a question, basically, you should be knowledgable enough to be qualified to answer it. If you haven't read that game, you're not qualified to answer a rules question. If it's a subjective question, if you haven't played that game and done that thing, you're not qualified. But you don't have to be a game designer or have played for 20 years.

You should also generally have paid a day worth of attention to how RPG.SE works and have perused the Tour before you ask or answer.

"Expert" means different things to different people. I think "basically know what you're doing" is more the bar.

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Yes, and No. As has been stated, the "expert" term came from the past and isn't super relevant today. Generally speaking, the criteria for if you belong here are fairly simple:

  1. Do you play or want to play RPGs, or games that fall under our umbrella (like LARPs)?
  2. Do you have questions about one or more of those games that you can't answer by reading that section of the rules? (If you have read it and the rules are confusing you, that qualifies.)
  3. Do you have answers to other people's questions about one or more of those games?

If you answer yes to #1, then you belong here. If you answer yes to #2, ask away! If you answer yes to #3, answer away!

Some of our questions are pretty beginner oriented, as you noticed. That applies to FATE, but also to systems like D&D. We get lots of 3.5 and Pathfinder questions that don't require what I'd call "expert" knowledge to answer, but that anybody who has played for a while can answer. Then we get harder questions that do require a lot of experience and research.

Some questions don't really even have "experts". What does an expert GM/DM/Storyteller/Whatever look like? I have no idea. Questions about how to run a game are wide open to anybody with experience doing it. If you've done it, you're probably just as much of an "expert" on the subject as I am.

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