Sort of the opposite of How do we deal with questions that are currently unanswerable, but will have answers in the future?

I recently saw this question: What are some standard monsters or NPCs that can dispel magic?

It is, of course, a list question, and it isn't particularly narrowly scoped. List questions are often too broad and it is often difficult to say which list is the best, and so most list questions are bad questions.

5e hasn't been out very long. As a result, there are actually fairly few monsters published that can cast Dispel Magic. Miniman's answer there, I think, covers all of them (not counting spellcasting demihuman NPCs). That answer is less than half a page long, well within our limits for reasonable length.

5e is a game published by a large publisher with a history of producing a lot of content for its supported games. There is no reason to think that such content will not be produced for 5e, just as it was for 4e, 3e, AD&D 2e, AD&D, D&D basic, etc.

If more content is produced, the answer will be outdated, which is fine because the question will still be useful. However, it will likely not be long until the 'correct' list answer is too large and the question thus becomes too broad.

How should we handle questions like this, that are fine now but will likely become poor in the future?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Oooh, good point. In this case scoping the question to the currently released books would fix it, but it's still potentially an issue for future questions. \$\endgroup\$
    – Miniman
    Jan 25, 2015 at 6:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ Just chiming in ( as the asker of the aforementioned question ) +1 for questioning the tachyometry of my question \$\endgroup\$ Jan 25, 2015 at 7:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ Not to spite this meta question, but would specifying "from the 2014 Monster Manual, DMG, or PHB" sufficiently narrow the question to avoid its future degradation? \$\endgroup\$ Jan 25, 2015 at 12:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DavidWilkins I think so, but it also greatly decreases the value of the question. Having an answer to what Dispel-Magic casting monsters are there and which one ought to be most commonly encountered is more useful than the same limited to this year's books, and thus a better question. It just isn't a good question for this site. There are, in fact, a great deal of narrowly scoped, objective, interesting, expert-level questions about RPGs which the community has decided are not to be handled here. That said, you don't really need to make any change till the question's closed. see BESW \$\endgroup\$ Jan 26, 2015 at 3:27

2 Answers 2


I'm going to speak to the general policy question. I don't think the example cited is a very good question yet (it needs more than one recommendation criteria) but that's a discussion which should take place in comments, chat, or a meta post set aside for that purpose (and I'm not a 5e expert, so I probably shouldn't hold forth on it there either).

We close questions when they aren't a good fit for the site, not before.

We don't moderate based on speculation about the future, no matter how sure we are about What Will Come To Pass. We moderate the present situation, drawing on experience from the past to inform the decision. Some examples:

  • We close old questions that were fine when posted, but aren't anymore because the RPG.SE policies have matured. It doesn't matter that the question was a good fit, we have to evaluate every question based on the current situation in which we find it.
  • We downvote posts which are bad but can be improved, and then upvote them after they're improved. It doesn't matter if the post can become great, we have to vote on its current state.

It seems reasonable that we should apply the same principle to questions whose quality changes because of conditions outside the site: If a question is good now, we encourage it regardless of potential reasons it might be less good later. If at some point in the future it's no longer good, we stop encouraging it and take the appropriate action.

As always: If, after we have several of this sort of question devolve over time, the experience teaches us that the policy should be revisited, we will re-evaluate it without hesitation.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Is it good now, though? It's structurally contra to our standards of good questions; it's only currently an accident of outside factors (not our own current policies or the current version of the post) that give it the appearance of being currently-good; outside factors that are nigh-guaranteed to demonstrate the question's badness in short order. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 25, 2015 at 10:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie I'll leave judging the main-site question which sparked this meta post to others who have more familiarity with the system involved: you'll notice that I haven't actually made any statement about the value of the example given. Answers to the broad question of policy on questions whose quality shifts with context over time--which is what this meta post poses--are not, I think, going to change depending on whether any one main-site question is good or not. \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Jan 25, 2015 at 10:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ (I have a frustrating history with asking meta questions about general policy which get answers that only focus on the minutiae of the examples I've offered. I'm trying not to pay that aggravation forward. The question doesn't seem to be asking about the validity of the example, just about the policy question which is sparked by it.) \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Jan 25, 2015 at 10:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ Focusing on general policy is good, but I think this still misses the mark there. I think it's worth distinguishing between shifting standards of quality, question quality being altered by editing, and question quality changing over time due to external factors despite the no editing or standards shift. The question as I read it is about the latter case, while this answer confines itself only to the two former cases. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 25, 2015 at 10:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ Much clearer. Not sure I'd agree, but much clearer. :) \$\endgroup\$ Jan 25, 2015 at 20:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'd love to see a post presenting an alternate approach to the topic. [nudge] \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Jan 25, 2015 at 22:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'd like to but don't have the brain for it lately. Since it does not seem like a hugely contentious issue though, and I don't feel strongly opposed, I'm ok with the consensus being not quite my ideal. :) \$\endgroup\$ Jan 26, 2015 at 2:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for giving a general policy answer! I also find specific answers to general questions occasionally frustrating. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 26, 2015 at 3:21

While I agree fully with BESW's answer as a general policy, I think there's room to be proactive about these sorts of things as well. Rather than let a question we know will be bad in the future sit around and, more likely than not, remain bad after said future date because nobody gets around to fixing it, you can help prevent some confusion by preemptively structuring the question (and in some cases the answer) to prevent the issues from coming up.

For example, with the question you linked, you could preemptively narrow the scope of the question and/or answer, from "What monsters have Dispel", to "What monsters in the Monster Manual have Dispel?" While this doesn't change anything about the question right now, it ensures that the scope of the question won't expand when more content with more monsters is released. It doesn't matter if there's a MM2, MM3, MM4, etc, since the question is explicitly about just the first one.

While this may seem nit-picky, it does serve a useful purpose in that, when a player two years from now finds that question through a google search, they can easily see that the question is out of date, and won't include monsters from any other sources that have come out since then. Then can then either use the information as-is, or if the question is no longer good enough, they can ask a new question that better fits their needs.

  • \$\begingroup\$ While I agree that it's always good to improve questions whether they're at the close line or not, it's best when that means helping folks scope their questions to more closely fit their situation, rather than imposing semi-random criteria for their own sake. If the querent provided details such as the level of his party, the environment of the encounter, and the other roles the creature should fill in combat, that'd make the question narrower in the direction of specific usefulness. \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Jan 26, 2015 at 9:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ Wouldn't that turn it into a "read the book for me" type question, though? If you want to know what monsters are in MM1, buy MM1 and read it... \$\endgroup\$ Jan 26, 2015 at 12:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Yamikuronue Maybe. If the only fix for a question that's bad-(here)-in-the-future makes it bad-(here)-now, then maybe it's just bad-(here)-entirely. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 26, 2015 at 17:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Yamikuronue That's a separate issue with that specific question maybe not being an especially great one in the first place. Narrowing the scope to MM1 only doesn't really change that. \$\endgroup\$
    – AgentPaper
    Jan 26, 2015 at 21:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Yamikuronue: I would argue that there's a difference between "read the book for me" and "summarize something from the book for me", and the latter can often be good questions. Sure, if you want to know which monsters in the MM have Dispel, you can pull out the book and check every monster entry in it one by one, but that's a lot of work if you (like most people) don't already have the full manual memorized. Wouldn't it be so much more convenient if someone had already done that work, and posted the list someplace where you could find it on Google? \$\endgroup\$ Feb 2, 2015 at 0:56

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