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The question Can I play D&D4E solo? seems to really need an answer recommending Wizards of the Coast's line of Dungeons & Dragons Board Games (e.g. Legend of Drizzt, Wrath of Ashardalon), and a Comment was made suggesting exactly that. That Comment's gone now but I don't know if that's because the Comment should've been an answer or because the Comment suggested a board game or because comments are transitory.

That leads to this: When making a game recommendation, is an answer on topic if it recommends a game from a medium other than tabletop role-playing games?

As a fictional example, were a question to ask...

I want a game that simulates duels between powerful wizards. Wizards have a limited number of spells they cast but which spells they can cast during combat are determined randomly, and uncast spells are saved for later casting. Further, such a game should involve summoning a wide variety of creatures that can be sent to attack an opposing wizards. I'd really like the game to have a detailed resource management system, and I'd like combat to become more spectacular the longer an engagement lasts because of spells that have been previously cast and remain in effect. What game would you recommend?

...would an answer remain on topic if it recommended Magic: The Gathering?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't think this makes your meta question any less valuable, but-- if that example question were asked, I'd be pretty durn sure that the querent was simply failing to mention that he wants an RPG like Magic: the Gathering, and so a suggestion that he play the card game instead would not be useful: instead I'd work with him to make his situation more clear. \$\endgroup\$ – BESW May 4 '15 at 8:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ If anyone would like to propose an analogous hypothetical, rock on. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan May 4 '15 at 13:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BESW Assume good faith (and, if you like, a better example). What if, new to gaming, the querent weren't trolling? And the experience he posits in the question is almost completely satisfied by a game that's not a role-playing game? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan May 4 '15 at 13:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ An interesting sort of paradox. The answer is off-topic, until the asker agrees with it, then the question becomes off-topic instead. \$\endgroup\$ – Erik May 4 '15 at 14:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ If it isn't appropriate as an answer, it should certainly be appropriate as a comment. Otherwise you're saying that one user who knows how to help another user shouldn't be able to. \$\endgroup\$ – Barret May 6 '15 at 15:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DrewS That's my feeling, too, and, were that an answer, I'd upvote it. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan May 6 '15 at 16:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ So, I'm the one who dropped the board game recommendation as a comment on the thread in question. I know that according to the rules of this site, it wouldn't have been an appropriate answer, and that's exactly why I made it a comment. What I'm confused about is why it wasn't considered appropriate as a comment, either. Are comments not the place for related discussion? \$\endgroup\$ – Mike Riverso May 6 '15 at 19:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MikeRiverso Comments just aren't for lasting info or discussion in the first place. See "When should I comment" and "When shouldn't I comment" in our help centre article on comments. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie May 7 '15 at 23:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ Related previous discussion: meta.rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/284/… \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie May 15 '15 at 14:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ When I asked this question, I was totally unaware of this question. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jul 18 '15 at 16:30
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If you assume good faith, and that the question itself is on-topic, then there is an implied (role playing) before every instance of the word "game" in the question.

I want a [role playing] game that simulates duels between powerful wizards. Wizards have a limited number of spells they cast but which spells they can cast during combat are determined randomly, and uncast spells are saved for later casting. Further, such a game should involve summoning a wide variety of creatures that can be sent to attack an opposing wizards. I'd really like the [role playing] game to have a detailed resource management system, and I'd like combat to become more spectacular the longer an engagement lasts because of spells that have been previously cast and remain in effect. What [role playing] game would you recommend?

Magic: the Gathering, while an excellent game, does not satisfy these requirements as it is not a role playing game.

If you don't assume that they are looking for a role playing game, then you are either assuming bad faith on the part of the asker or that their question is off topic. In the first case, you shouldn't answer the question, and in the second you should vote to close.

Exception

Even with good faith there are still times when a non-role playing game could be the best solution for the asker.

Perhaps after talking with the user you've determined that they are so unrelentingly hack-and-slash that they would never use improvisational rules. Or that they're so whimsical that they feel the need to add role playing elements to their games of Monopoly.

Or perhaps you yourself have a way of bolting a role playing module on to the game.

In this case go ahead, but treat it as a frame breaking answer. You are subverting a key requirement of their question, and you should cover the reasons thoroughly.

The Real Problem

So, what about those D&D board games? While they do a fine job of streamlining the combat mechanics, they are simply not role playing games. Playing the D&D board game solo is not the same as playing D&D solo.

If you were to recommend them in this case, then you would need to provide an answer that is useful to someone who is looking to play the actual game solo. At a bare minimum, this would be notes on what's missing from the board game experience. You would also likely want to include experiences adding role playing elements to the board game.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Agreed, we've had frame challenges in the past that came in the form of: "There really isn't an RPG for this. Maybe you'd rather be playing this board game / video game instead if you want that kind of thing." \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener May 5 '15 at 3:26
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Suggesting a non-RPG wouldn't be on topic as an entire answer, for the reasons discussed in other answers here, but I don't think there's anything wrong with putting that suggestion in an answer that also suggests the best matching RPG you can think of.

Example:

SomeRPG is about as close as you're going to get, for these reasons: ...

However, your best bet might not even be an RPG. There's a card game called Magic: The Gathering, and it would be even better than SomeRPG, because ...

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is basically the same as a frame challenge. \$\endgroup\$ – the dark wanderer May 10 '15 at 0:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @thedarkwanderer Agreed. \$\endgroup\$ – DCShannon May 11 '15 at 16:54
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No, it would not be on topic.

Our mandate is to give RPG expertise. A non-RPG might be the right answer — or it might not, and our voting scheme would be untrustworthy to determine which. We aren't collectively experts on non-RPGs (even when some of us are individually) and our site's premise means that non-RPG advice comes with no assurances that it is any good:

  • our community of voters is not expected to be able to properly vote on non-RPG answers
  • we don't expect answers to generate a variety of non-RPG alternatives so that the best non-RPG answer floats to the top
  • people searching for quality non-RPG answers will not think to come here
  • the feedback loop that ensures quality in RPG matters does not function (or worse, malfunctions) when it comes to material outside of our topic

Non-RPG answers to RPG questions are off topic, because they break the system, for the same reasons that answers based primarily on opinion rather than expertise break the system.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Certain outside games are still very closely related to RPGs, though, which could theoretically help these answers stay on topic. Board games that implement RPG mechanics, video games like Neverwinter Nights or Dungeons and Dragons Online that are directly or indirectly based on RPG IP's and mechanics, card games like the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game (which can be played with or without a DM). Talisman makes a great introduction to fantasy RPGs without requiring all the same setup (character creation, blargh), including mechanics like quests, stats, helpful and unhelpful NPCs, etc. \$\endgroup\$ – gatherer818 May 5 '15 at 8:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ @gatherer818 None of those are tabletop RPGs though. Many of them also have only passing resemblance to the tabletop experience. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener May 5 '15 at 9:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ @gatherer818 And importantly, we can't assume that a large enough portion of our userbase has enough familiarity with them to judge their relevance (let alone quality) as answers. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie May 5 '15 at 20:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ I would be very surprised if our user base lacked expertise with things so close on the fringes of tabletop play. Sure, it's not going to be universal, but there's a lot of overlap between those chunks of geekdom. \$\endgroup\$ – Bradd Szonye May 9 '15 at 0:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BraddSzonye There is overlap, but it's not part of our topic. Hence, we can only guess at our competence, and it can fluctuate invisibly over time since our site system does not ensure ever-increasing competence in those off-topic subjects, as it does with our on-topic subjects. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie May 9 '15 at 2:25
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The line that differenciates an RPG from a non-RPG is quite thin and very much relies on the play style of the group.

There are enough groups out there (and sometimes, this includes mine) that uses an RPG book and rules for a brainless hack-and-slash dungeon crawl. It's mindless fun. Is it roleplaying? Only because that's printed on the front of the book. Besides saying I hit the orc instead of my plastic figure hits the orc there really is no "roleplaying" involved on those adventures.

There are huge communities that are so narrowly focussed on the mechanical side, that I'd not call them "roleplayers". They don't actually play roles, they use RPGs as a min-max optimization theory playground.

And yet, this is roleplaying. Who am I to tell them their style is not roleplaying. They are using the rules, they bought the books, they are roleplaying.

On the other side of it are for example board or card games. Their natural style in turn would be to be optimized mechanically, to play a fast round of mindless fun without identifying with playing pieces or cards. And yet, with the right group, such a game can be more roleplaying than any of the RPGs with a group that's not set for roleplaying.

Because roleplaying is how you play the game. Regardless of rules. As long as there is no rule against roleplaying, you could probably roleplay a tycoon using a monopoly board.

So yes, suggesting something that is not officially a roleplaying game is not exactly on topic, but who decides what a roleplaying game is? There is no official body that would put a stamp of approval on products to mark them as "officially roleplaying material".

I think suggestions that do not have roleplaying in their title should include a description on what to do to make it a roleplaying experience, but other than that, I think it's a matter of up and downvoting, not something that should be closed or flagged.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ For better or worse, we must decide what is and is not our topic, and therefore can't avoid defining what is and isn't an RPG. We simply don't have the luxury of shrugging and saying it's impossible. Fortunately, we need only pick a line that is practical for site purposes, not try to define it perfectly and for all time. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie May 15 '15 at 14:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie So, did we define what an RPG is? Wikipedia tries to. Their first paragraph would perfectly describe how my group is playing Warhammer Quest (a boardgame like Hero Quest). And yet, some D&D adventures we play are hardly roleplaying at all. So what makes a roleplaying game for the topic of this site? What it says on it's cover, or what you actually do with it? \$\endgroup\$ – nvoigt May 15 '15 at 15:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ There has been a bunch of piecemeal discussion of the site topic for purpose of nailing down the contents of help center/on-topic and help center/dont-ask. (Most should be in [on-topic].) Some of them: Are choose your own adventure questions on topic?, Do fantasy-football type games fall within our bailiwick?, What is on topic on Role-playing Games Stack Exchange?, \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie May 15 '15 at 15:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ To sum those up: what it says on the cover, in general, and what the wider RPG community generally treats as an RPG. My understanding is this is for the practical reason that we have expertise on what is generally considered an RPG, and on things that call themselves RPGs and are accepted as such. For anything else, it's random whether we have expertise on it, just like it's random whether we have historical, physics, or visual-arts expertise. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie May 15 '15 at 15:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie That's all about questions. And I agree. A question about board games is off topic. But this thread is about answers to on-topic questions. Would you consider this answer off topic? \$\endgroup\$ – nvoigt May 15 '15 at 15:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ They're about site topic — the point of linking them is to answer your question about where we've defined "RPG," not to say this question has been answered. :) This question is about how site topic applies to answers. My objection to this meta-answer is that it hinges on the inability to theoretically define "RPG", but that's not relevant because we can define it practically. As for that question: it seems to pass community muster, which is what's important. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie May 15 '15 at 16:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ "I think suggestions that do not have roleplaying in their title should include a description on what to do to make it a roleplaying experience, but other than that, I think it's a matter of up and downvoting, not something that should be closed or flagged." Is a valid point that saves the rest of it. \$\endgroup\$ – DCShannon May 16 '15 at 0:14
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If communicating it in a comment isn't appropriate because it should be an answer, then the answer's on topic.

If the answer is off topic, then the comment shouldn't be an answer and should stand.

I stand persuaded that answering the question with a non RPG would be off topic. But it's still useful information the would be of value to querent. The most appropriate way to communicate the information would seem to be a comment. Otherwise you're saying that one user who knows how to help another user shouldn't be able to.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "you're saying that one user who knows how to help another user shouldn't be able to." That's right. RPG.se isn't here for all purposes for all people, and we don't want to encourage people to try to use it for off-topic things by satisfying them with off-topic help. There are dozens of places online to get that kind of help already, so we don't need to anyway; and not giving it preserves our site's focus on its topic. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie May 7 '15 at 23:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ While we appreciate the helpful attitude, the fact something doesn't make for a good answer doesn't make it a good comment. Our standards for comments on main are that they request clarification or suggest improvement, with very little leeway around it. They aren't a spot for theoretically-helpful not-quite-answers; that produces a mess. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener May 8 '15 at 4:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener So by phrasing the recommendation as a clarifying comment, the comment becomes acceptable. (For example, Have you considered X? rather than Consider X.) Got it. And we have always been at war with Eastasia. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan May 8 '15 at 13:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan I don't think "Have you considered playing Fallout 2?" sounds like a clarification, it's still a recommendation. And I'm pretty sure any request for clarification about what board and video games someone's played would probably be flagged as not constructive; it's likely going to be irrelevant here. Except for as BESW mentioned in his comment on the question - if someone sounds like they're describing M:tG, we might ask them if they have, and if so, what they want out of an RPG they don't get out of that. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener May 8 '15 at 13:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie You think "That niche might be better served by something else" is so off-topic, so disruptive to the site that it should be banned in any form? Is your solution to the situation the querent never gets an answer and lives unhappily ever after? I'm not suggesting we start answering every question, no matter how off topic. But telling someone who wants to play 4e solo to play the D&D board game is a good option, and only borderline off-topic. There should be some kind of mechanism for helping the querent. \$\endgroup\$ – Barret May 8 '15 at 14:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think I already answered that in my answer. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie May 8 '15 at 14:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie Challenges to the frame of a question have been mentioned in answers here --and comments to answers-- already. However, we don't yet have an answer which specifically talks about how that is the legitimate, constructive form for "play something other than an RPG" to take on this site. Perhaps editing your answer with that would help? \$\endgroup\$ – BESW May 8 '15 at 23:00

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