Often enough we get really low-quality questions that are obvious that the asker has not read the rules at all (vs. asking for clarification). What does "+6 to hit, Hit: 13 (2d8 + 4)" mean in a creature's stat block? is an example of this. Generally these questions seemed to be looked down on by the community as not serving our purpose or helping anyone and encouraging a "read the rules to me" mindset (thank you for that Grubermensch).

So can we add an option to the Vote to Close to reflect that the question lacks even a basic understanding of the system and they should go read the rules before posting? Right now none of the available options fit this.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Confusingly, the linked question, cited as an example of an obviously bad question, now has net +30 votes... \$\endgroup\$
    – Alex M
    Commented Dec 20, 2019 at 20:22

2 Answers 2


I understand the frustration. I really, really do. But it's not what votes to close are for and we don't need such an option.

There is already a tool designed for "you didn't RTFM": the downvote arrow. When you hover over the downvote arrow, its tooltip says:

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

That encompasses failing to read the fine manual.

Voting to close is for questions that are off-topic or unanswerable in a finite amount of time. A question that describes a problem that boils down to "I didn't read/find the rule" is neither off topic, nor unanswerable — it's just bad. Close votes are for questions that don't belong or that do belong but need some TLC before being answered, but for questions that are just bad we have downvotes.


But why? Why do we have to put up with crap questions? Because the gamification of the site works a certain way, and bad questions aren't properly gamification-motivated by closing. Downvotes hurt materially — they ding the asker's reputation on an ongoing basis. A highly downvoted question, although it may be topical, gets buried and hidden from the front page. The punishment continues when other people find it, because it's still open and still begging for punishment. Downvotes send the message that the question is bad, and unappreciated by the community. It's still possible to answer a bad question with a stellar answer though, and we do want that to happen. (We even have a hard-to-get badge for pulling off that kind of reversal.) We make the internet better that way — our site's founding principle.

Closing, on the other hand, is a site management feature. It's designed to keep the site tidy and on topic, and to prevent our expert answerers from getting tied up in open-ended discussions, and to prevent answers on questions for which we aren't experts and won't generate quality answers. Closing is primarily an answer management feature. It doesn't inflict a material "ow" on the asker that might gamification-motivate them to stop (although it can be personally frustrating). Close votes send the message that the question might be fine, just maybe not here, or maybe not without some work done to fix it up.

So that's why we put up with crap questions: because we obliterate them with downvotes so that we don't get more crap questions. Closing questions doesn't discourage future bad questions, it just deals with this one right now. Different tools for different aims.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ I don't believe this line of reasoning is correct. If we want a whole class of questions off topic, we decide to close them. Downvoting is for classes of questions on topic but that happen to specifically suck. I'm not weighing in on whether "read the book to me" questions should be on topic or not, just saying it is a legit decision to call them off topic and close them, not just downvote. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Aug 2, 2014 at 1:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk I don't disagree. I didn't read this meta as asking if they should be off-topic, but assuming that they should be closeable because of perceived problems with them. I see a hammer-and-nail assumption, less the opening of a debate on topicality. But we could have that debate, yeah. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 2, 2014 at 2:43
  • 9
    \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk I agree, but in this case, "explaining the rules of the game" is certainly on-topic, and constitutes a large chunk of the site's questions. What you're defining as "a class of questions" is "questions which are nominally on topic but that show absolutely no research" - but that's not a class, as I see it, but a level of quality, as SSD put it. \$\endgroup\$
    – lisardggY
    Commented Aug 4, 2014 at 4:18

Although I completely agree with the sentiment behind this request, I can't help but worry a little about how exactly we would judge which questions should be closed for this reason.

What is obvious and plainly written for one person can be really confusing for someone else, particularly once you factor in issues with rules not being written in peoples' first languages. I know I've asked some pretty dumb, obvious questions about new systems that in retrospect could easily have been closed for this reason. However, at the point I asked the question, I needed to ask the question and I had RTFM.

For this reason, my personal preference would be to vote down the types of questions you are talking about rather than closing them.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This question is a good example of why we need a RTFM category for closing a question. When I began the close vote process, none of the categories fit the truth of this matter, which is that this question has no place on the SE. We do prefer that at least some basics are known. This is one of them. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 12, 2015 at 12:42

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .