This is not about venting about the downvotes on my post. Let's agree that my post does contain mistakes and that my comments down the road were driven by frustration. I'd like to share why I was frustrated and ask your opinion.

I see a large gap in voting and commenting behaviour between RPG.SE and the other SE sites I frequently visit. Obviously this is only my own experience, Stack Overflow for example is huuge so if you check different tags, maybe you have a different experience.

With the other sites my voting experience is:

  • downvotes are for factually wrong content beyond salvaging or content that did not show any effort.

    Example low-quality answers:

    "The level limit in D&D 5 is 17, only Orcs with Cyberware can obtain level 21."


    "It's 20."

  • Comments are used when the post does show effort, but got things wrong.

    Example comments:

    "The table for levels in AD&D 1 went to 29, not 20"


    "Mentioning Level 9 characters and level 9 spells in the same paragraph may confuse people. Can you be more precise?"

  • If people do not share the opinion, they either upvote another post or write their own.

This post however (and this is not the first time this happend) received a lot of downvotes without anyone getting constructive about what was wrong. It's impossible to actually correct any mistakes on the base of "you got all the details wrong". Well what details? What is wrong? The last comment finally got into details. If that comment would have been the first, before the downvotes, I would probably have improved and corrected my post. Without it, that was pretty much impossible.

I do make as many mistakes as anyone else. And I absolutely look up to the senior members of other sites. I share a tag with a 700K rep user on StackOverflow and I have been corrected by him more than once. But he wrote constructive comments. Comments where when I read them I was like "D'oh he is so right". Right now, I cannot say this from this community. All I get is downvotes and broad "that's wrong" statements.

It feels like random favoritism. I'm not saying it is. I know fully well that everybody can vote as he likes and no comment is necessary. But just because it's possible, that does not mean that it builds a good and constructive community with respected members.

What do you think about this site's voting behavior?

What are your experiences?

Do you see differences between this and other SE sites?

As the comments have been deleted and no longer visible, here they are:

  • I'm not passing judgement on whether 20th level should be a hard limit or not — I’m just trying to ascertain what the rule actually is. The PHB seems to imply that 20th is the limit, and if that’s 20 character levels then it inherently limits multiclassers, in as much as you can't have more than 20 class levels in total. Eg. If you're Fighter 7/Wizard 8/Bard 5 then that's it. You're done. – Rick Lecoat 2 days ago

  • Yes, right now, 20 is the limit. Voting behaviour of RPG.SE gaming kids aside, that is what both answers say right in the first line. – nvoigt 2 days ago

  • @nvoigt: The other answer doesn't say that 20 is the limit, it says that the rules don't tell you how to progress past 20. – Charles 2 days ago

  • @Charles Where is the practical difference? The rules also don't explicitly forbid having a pink flying elephant as race. But we implicitely assume that you should play only the races available, until another book brings new races. Same with level 20. – nvoigt 2 days ago

  • @nvoigt: The practical difference in answers is that yours says it can't be done and the other says the rules don't specify, which is a big difference in the context of your comment. The practical difference in gameplay between continuing to gain levels through multiclassing (using existing PHB rules) and pink flying elephants as a race... I'll let you work that one out. – Charles 2 days ago

  • @Charles Tell me how much XP you need to build a Level 10 Something/11 Another? What exactly do I need to work out there? No rules exist for that. Sure, you can houserule that. And I could houserule pink flying elephants. But that's not the point, is it? The point is, for all practical purposes, the rules go to level 20, no matter how you distribute the levels. – nvoigt 2 days ago

  • This also gets a lot of details about AD&D wrong. – SevenSidedDie 2 days ago

  • @SevenSidedDie Mind to explain the "lot of details"? – nvoigt 2 days ago

  • Maybe @SevenSided Die was referring to my original question, in which I did generalise regarding the ability to progress to unlimited levels in AD&D (I neglected to mention that certain classes and certain class/race combinations did have inherent level limitations). – Rick Lecoat 2 days ago

  • The details of levelling and Name level in both 1e and 2e are either wrong, or vague and misleading in what they seem to suggest; the comments on balance are eyebrow-raising, and mentioning wish and 9th level in the same breath (is maybe unintentional but) creates a false impression. It's just sloppy or wrong in all the points that it tries to set up as the basis of its argument. – SevenSidedDie 2 days ago

  • My desire is not to pick all the nits. Just to point out that there are more issues with this answer than just a quibble about how to word what 5e implies. Dismissing the downvotes as merely "voting behaviour of RPG.SE gaming kids" is doing yourself a disservice, when there are other issues that could be fixed. – SevenSidedDie 2 days ago

  • I cannot fix any issue on the basis of "I don't like it" or "it's wrong". I have the very books we are talking about right in front of me. Please point out what is wrong. My comments on balance are my personal opinion, declared as my opinion and with a mention that this is just an opinion and your experience may vary. Voting on that is mind-bogglingly stupid and not worthy of an SE site. But we already had the discussion on professional behaviour and how this cannot be expected from every site in the SE network. – nvoigt 2 days ago

  • Cheap shots at the community here aside, here are some of its issues: it suggests 1e and 2e are different in ways they are not; there is no prescription in either that 9th level is the end of adventuring; wish and power word: kill are not available to a 9th-level wizard. These inaccuracies (or vaguenesses that look like inaccuracies) further sink an answer that is already on shaky ground by not really answering the question. Crafting a good "let me show how your question is wrong" answer is hard enough, it can't survive other weaknesses. – SevenSidedDie yesterday

  • Another big issue is that the framing of the answer is (paraphrasing) "all D&Ds limit max level, but some lift them in the DMG." However, the most relevant edition, the edition the asker is most familiar with, doesn't accord with that: AD&D already has infinite levelling (for some race/class combinations) described in the PHB, the DMG doesn't add it. The answer is off on the wrong foot and keeps stumbling; but if those details and framing could be fixed, the core assertion that 5e is limited to 20 levels (which I agree is true) might stand a chance to get through. – SevenSidedDie yesterday

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    \$\begingroup\$ I am astonished that this meta question has so far received 5 downvotes! Clearly there are quite a few people running around rpg.stackexchange.com with funny ideas about how the site should work... \$\endgroup\$ Oct 20, 2014 at 21:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Miniman you may want to read Voting is different on meta. Although officially it only applies to the posts tagged feature-request, people on meta (at least the meta before it was split, maybe RPG.SE has it's own meta rules) see votes as agreement or disagreement because meta actually is about disussion, unlike the main site. \$\endgroup\$
    – nvoigt
    Oct 21, 2014 at 6:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nvoigt Fair enough, my bad. In that case, I'd suggest that downvoters are disagreeing with the premise of the question. \$\endgroup\$
    – Miniman
    Oct 21, 2014 at 21:50

4 Answers 4


I haven't seen this until now, so this is an opinion coming from fresh eyes.

There is a difference in voting patterns on this site compared to something like Stack Overflow. It takes some getting used to.

In your case, what happened is this:

but I have never seen people actually play D&D at that level. How much fun would a game be where an enemy can insta-kill you if you lose the initiative roll and vice-versa? Not much I guess.

That's opinion. Opinions can open you up to downvotes if people don't agree with the opinion. In particular, anybody who does play campaigns at high level and does enjoy it is probably going to downvote this.

They may or may not leave a comment, as the comment isn't going to be able to help you improve the answer. All it's going to say is "I think you're wrong" or "I don't think that's useful", and their downvote already says that. Anything else would be suggesting you change your answer rather than improve it.

The question was asking about if there are rules for epic level. Saying "I've never played at that level but I don't think it would be fun" isn't adding a lot of value to the answer. It's Bad Subjective. If you had played it before and could explain what you found problematic or not fun, that would be better.

If you had a link or tips on how to mitigate some of those issues, that would be better still. That could also run the risk of going off topic if it turns out the 5e epic rules don't have those issues, but it's much more likely to be helpful.

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    \$\begingroup\$ To clarify: if this is the reason for a downvote, no useful comments are likely forthcoming because all they can say is "I don't think that's useful to say," which is what the downvote already said all on its own. \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Oct 16, 2014 at 13:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BESW Yeah that's what I was trying to say, thanks BESW. :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Tridus
    Oct 16, 2014 at 14:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BESW On the other hand though, a downvote doesn't say "I think {specific part} is not useful to say." \$\endgroup\$ Oct 16, 2014 at 14:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1. the bulk of your answer was not an answer. See meta.rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/3318/… on how to - and the risks of - challenging the question itself. In this case - you tried and got burned, and that's the risk you take when proffering a "you shouldn't do that" opinion on a question. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Oct 16, 2014 at 16:55

The problem with your post wasn't the details. I downvoted it not for those, but because bulk of the answer was an editorial on why playing up to or past L20 was untenable.

That wasn't in scope for the question, and it wasn't necessary to a proper answer. But more importantly, the reasoning given was largely hearsay. "Level 20 is a kind of optimizer-min-max theory, but I have never seen people actually play D&D at that level." That's not driven by experience, or the kind of quality we expect here.

Basically, if you find yourself spending 2/3 of your answer to a basic rules question explaining why what the person wants to do is untenable, it's probably an answer that will stir the pot and attract downvotes.

Lastly. When you know that you've given an answer that is likely to stir up downvotes, don't double down and insult us as a community. Several of your comments were way out of line and this is not the first time for that either.

Downvotes happen. They're an important tool for our communities. Please stop taking them personally. If suggestions are given on how to improve your post, great. If not, take a hard look at yourself and see if you can find something to fix. If after a hard look see you're still having trouble, stop by chat and we can talk about it.

Largely, people don't pile on here, and when they do leave comments with downvotes they are helpful. This post is an exception to both of those things. But that may be in part because you're seen as an experienced user who can evaluate their own posts at this point. You've been here a good long time, and have a lot of reputation, we expect folks like that to be leaders.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I don't really understand how "I have never seen people actually play D&D at that level" is hearsay. I have never seen it. If that observation is not driven by my very own experience, I'm not sure what would qualify instead. Yes, it's my limited experience. But what else can anyone here provide but their own experience? I never claimed that this was somehow the ultimate truth. \$\endgroup\$
    – nvoigt
    Oct 16, 2014 at 13:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ The point is that "I've never seen it" belies no actual experience with it and is a clue that it's tenability is not something you should be commenting on. \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    Oct 16, 2014 at 13:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ok, so it would have been better to write "For the last 25 years we always ended our campaigns around level 14+ because playing above that level was unbearable"? \$\endgroup\$
    – nvoigt
    Oct 16, 2014 at 13:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes. The better question though is what is that editorializing adding to the answer? Why do you feel the need to challenge the frame of the question when it's simply asking "hey is this a hard level cap or are there exceptions" why the need for the warning? \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    Oct 16, 2014 at 13:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ Someone is trying to find a solution to something that if he got a solution, will only find himself in more trouble than before. I don't think that's what an answer should provide. Personally, I think such a question (and it's direct answer) without any context could as well be closed as "go read the rulebook". The point of RPG.SE is not to reiterate a rule that's not even remotely unclear. It's to provide context. \$\endgroup\$
    – nvoigt
    Oct 16, 2014 at 13:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ If you've played it, you can talk about that experience. "I think that's so hard I've never chosen to even try" isn't speaking from a position of learning and experience. You're right, someone with experience playing at that level would be able to add great content to an answer that otherwise addresses the question's main thrust. \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Oct 16, 2014 at 13:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is an important point: "But that may be in part because you're seen as an experienced user who can evaluate their own posts at this point." That in large part motivated the brevity of my comments, plus knowing that the AD&D errors were only a side issue to other problems. My motive was to point out that there were many issues of many kinds, and that's usually enough for an experienced user who's crafted an unusually low-quality post. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 16, 2014 at 15:02

If you think your answer is useful and has taken fair account of the objections, don't worry about its unpopularity - it is just a signal to you and other users of the site that few people agree with you and many disagree vehemently. Not many people liked my opinion on Narrativist Gaming: How do you transition more traditionally-trained players into them?, but I think the answer was constructive and interesting and I am amused by the voting behaviour. A popularity-contest mechanic for a Q&A site is bound to be like this sometimes: I don't regard it as injustice, just the community milieu.

Don't get defensive in your justifications for your answer: others are quite entitled to dislike your idea, and you don't need to convince everybody.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @TimLymington But when downvotes are anonymous and can be for absolutely any reason there's no way of knowing if Alticamelus's advice is actually mistaken and unhelpful. It's hard to call Alticamelus's attitude and responses wrong when folks needn't explain themselves. I've received inexplicable, unexplained downvotes on what I know are good answers, and for someone in a similar position Alticamelus's advice seems downright comforting. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 28, 2014 at 22:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TimLymington That a downvote should indicate more than disagreement is meaningless when, in reality, what a downvote actually means is completely unknown. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 29, 2014 at 0:44

SevenSidedDie already wrote, like, 2000 words about this in the comments that you've posted here.

Please reread them.

  • \$\begingroup\$ As I said, I'm not talking about the last two comments. If they had been posted from the start, I'd not been frustrated with downvoting without visible reason. I would probably have changed things. But you cannot change things on such broad remarks as "gets lots of details wrong". \$\endgroup\$
    – nvoigt
    Oct 16, 2014 at 13:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nvoigt as I said in my answer, I think at this point there is at least some measure of expectation from your rep level and experience here that you can do better on your own. If that's not true, try taking a more conciliatory tone in your comments and act like you want help. \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    Oct 16, 2014 at 13:31

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