This conversation was continued two years later with a different conclusion based on the experience gleaned from enacting this one.

I was looking at What should I read/watch for information about the 1930s United States?, and I was wondering, is this really appropriate to the site.

  • It can be answered.
  • It requires some expertise (but not much).
  • It isn't directly related to RPGs. It could easily be as valid for writing, etc.

Should we allow this type of question on the site?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Would we be discussing this if the question had been about Athas, Faerun, or Krynn? I am worried that we might exclude RPGs that are not based on fantasy settings. \$\endgroup\$ – Eric Weilnau Oct 13 '10 at 1:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ As a compromise: how would you feel about tagging these questions with "setting", so they can be more easily ignored by people who don't want to see them? \$\endgroup\$ – Graham Oct 13 '10 at 8:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes as it is related to campaign building. \$\endgroup\$ – RS Conley Oct 13 '10 at 12:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think a more valuable question is "How can I (we) write a campaign research question in a way that adds value to a RPG Q&A site?" \$\endgroup\$ – anon186 Nov 13 '10 at 2:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also these questions don't really meet the criteria for being a good question, as defined here: msmvps.com/blogs/jon_skeet/archive/2010/08/29/…. \$\endgroup\$ – anon186 Nov 13 '10 at 3:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Jeremiah: I agree with your reframing of the question, but having read the blog post you allude to, I can't see what you're driving at there. Rather than point to a long article, could you articulate the problem as you see it? I think that would be more useful. Thanks! \$\endgroup\$ – Dave Hallett Nov 14 '10 at 22:17

So, here are some points in defence of campaign questions:

  1. In games like Call of Cthulhu, the setting is often more important than the game mechanics. Getting good locations in, say, 1930s Shanghai is essentially how you plan a scenario. So I'd be wary of, for example, insisting that questions must ask about specific mechanics.

  2. The answers I've got have been helpful. That's important, I think: asking the question hasn't been worthless.

  3. Where would you draw the line? There's another question about Dogs In The Vineyard in the Holy Land: that question also asks about specific setting elements. There's a question about how to create old-looking newspaper articules: that question isn't directly related to RPGs and could apply to other types of writing.

So, although I understand the doubts, there is some sense in allowing questions about campaign settings.

  • \$\begingroup\$ See my answer on meta.rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/689/… \$\endgroup\$ – anon186 Nov 15 '10 at 16:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ The answers to these kinds of questions are sometimes subtly and sometimes grossly different than the answers given to similar questions in other contexts. I wouldn't consider a GURPS world book to be a good historical reference, but I find them invaluable when considering running an historical or partially-historical RPG campaign. (Whether with GURPS or not.) \$\endgroup\$ – Robert Fisher Nov 16 '10 at 15:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ I probably have a few RPG books on my shelf that would not be considered RPG books if considered by the same standard that would exclude these questions. Mythic Europe for Ars Magica is probably a good example. How about the Harn (not HarnMaster) books? The world is fictional, but they don't tend to be about mechanics. \$\endgroup\$ – Robert Fisher Nov 16 '10 at 15:19

A great many games have historical issues which arise from game play, and affect play, but are not actually rules issues. These should be allowed, albeit kept focused.

Pendragon sites are riddled with historical questions, usually answered quickly by the more knowledgeable, and in some cases, answered by the rules-lawyers with a "History says X, but Greg changed it in book Y" and occasionally with a "History says A, Bead and Nennius Say B, White says W, and Mallory says M, and Greg said Z."

Call of Cthulu also has lots of historical references that can make or break adventures... like the recent question At what point in the 20th century did automobiles and telephones become ubiquitous?... its highly useful for not just CoC, but also anyone running any 20th C historical or fantasy-historical game.

Alternatively, one could simply bar all setting questions, but I'm opposed to doing that.


If it's something that is best answered by RPG experts, it should be on topic. The point of the Roleplaying Games SE is to get answers from RPG experts, so if we're the best people to ask then the question is clearly in the right place.

This covers any question that is best answered by an RPG expert, even if it's a question about real-life history. Asking How late in history can I set a campaign based in the US without cars and telephones being widespread? is a better fit here than History SE, because the asker is interested in what time period would fit best for a campaign, which leads to different answers than you'd get for a purely history-based question.


I would say that setting questions are perfectly valid, so long as they aren't purely historical. But I'm quite biased because of my gaming/philosophical question set.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Agreed. If it's something that could be transplanted to histroy.se with no to little change, then it doesn't belong here. \$\endgroup\$ – DForck42 Jul 24 '12 at 19:41

It's a tough one.

Campaign research and world-building are pretty integral to RPGs. They're definitely something we SHOULD be able to cover in some way. That said, I think that we should definitely be tying the RPG we're targeting into the question in some way.

So far as the CW vs. not CW issue is concerned, if the question is looking for a list of resources (Where do I go to... What do I read to...), I would favor the CW format. As someone approaching an already asked question I just don't find a group of massive lists with comments saying "+1 for this" and "+1 for that" to be terribly useful. It's difficult to parse out which aspects of each answer were actually helpful to people. As a voter I also feel constrained, because I feel like I should only be voting for the one best answer instead of up/down voting whenever I see something interesting/not interesting.

On the other hand, if the question is "How do I build a city for ...", or "how do I capture the feel of..." I think that non-CW is appropriate. That sort of question is naturally going to lead to more original content, and will somewhat sidestep the massive list of links problem.

Of course, this has just been my outlook on the matter. The community has been tending away from CW for list questions.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Can I just say that I hate community wikis? They're the most boring questions on the site. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Nov 15 '10 at 19:20

I'm with mxyzplk. No, such questions are not within the purview of RPG.SE

RPGs cover every period in human history.

If it's not RPG-specific and can be googled, why is it on SE?

For example: What's a Denver accent sound like? ...is NOT phrased "What would a Denver accent sound like in the setting of SR4?"

That's a generic historical question that is not RPG-specific.

Note that this argument does not apply to Future or Fictional History.

  • \$\begingroup\$ But Shadowrun IS explicitly mentioned in the question body, providing the detail necessary for answerers to include any deviation created by the campaign setting. \$\endgroup\$ – AceCalhoon Jun 21 '11 at 14:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ Catchall justification for any question, then. Hey, let's talk about Arizona history and justify it by mentioning a WildWest RPG. :/ \$\endgroup\$ – ExTSR Jun 21 '11 at 16:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Six_Degrees_of_Kevin_Bacon A lot simpler here, tho, since the body of RPGs includes nearly every topic in existence. \$\endgroup\$ – ExTSR Jun 21 '11 at 16:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ Not precisely. See my answer here (meta.rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/1000/…) for my take on the matter. Consider also the question What does Deep Speech look/sound like. \$\endgroup\$ – AceCalhoon Jun 21 '11 at 16:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AceCalhoon Deep speech is directly related to RPGs, Denver is not so much ... \$\endgroup\$ – C. Ross Jun 21 '11 at 19:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ExTSR If that's how you feel, a close vote is in order ... \$\endgroup\$ – C. Ross Jun 21 '11 at 19:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @C.Ross This is why I'm somewhat uncomfortable with the hardline "directly related to RPGs regardless of the context of the question" stance. It effectively bans campaign research questions from a variety of games such as Call of Cthulu, 7th Sea, Star Wars, Vampire, etc. This in turn shifts the focus of the site to the "fully sanctioned" RPGs such as D&D (mostly latter editions which are more self contained). Which is fine, if that's where we want the site to go, but the whining about it is so very tiresome. \$\endgroup\$ – AceCalhoon Jun 21 '11 at 19:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AceCalhoon more and more it seems to me that we have to support every arbitrary question (history, literature, linguistics, etc, etc), or limit it to directly applicable. \$\endgroup\$ – C. Ross Jun 21 '11 at 19:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @C.Ross, I'm the sole vote to close on the "Denver" question. :/ \$\endgroup\$ – ExTSR Jun 21 '11 at 19:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ btw, apparently we now have a Tag for "Denver". This is not rational. \$\endgroup\$ – ExTSR Jun 21 '11 at 20:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ To clarify my response to ExTSR linking to Meta above: I am not implying in any way that the post is official policy. ExTSR had stated earlier that a tie to an RPG could be a catchall justification for any question. It is my belief that the answer to that is "no." The justification for that answer is a multi-paragraph post and comment thread, which would never fit in the comments. Apologies for any confusion. \$\endgroup\$ – AceCalhoon Jun 27 '11 at 14:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ace, your followup is complete, level-headed, and notably sane. ;> (Maybe I've just been on conventional message boards too much, lol) \$\endgroup\$ – ExTSR Jun 27 '11 at 15:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ If RPG stack exchange is all about rules, in my humble opinion, it would diminish its usefulness to the community. If fantasy setting questions are allowed (which I read as implied) then why would real world not be? \$\endgroup\$ – Sardathrion - Reinstate Monica Jul 6 '11 at 7:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ExTSR: "If it's not RPG-specific and can be googled, why is it on SE?" Me: If it is RPG related (contains one or more game keywords) and can be Googled, that is why it SHOULD be on SE. Google Search Rank == New Users with Questions and Answers. Folks, I wouldn't be here if ExTSR's reasoning was aggressively applied. I got here via Google. \$\endgroup\$ – F. Randall Farmer Jan 5 '12 at 18:12

No, such questions are off topic.

In theory, they seem like they might be a good idea because the real world (or a variant on it) is the setting for many RPGs. But in reality, when the community is faced with questions like At what point in the 20th century did automobiles and telephones become ubiquitous? people immediately vote to close them, because it seems to them that it is super off topic. In reality "yes" to this question means any random question on any random topic is OK because it might be used in an RPG. If you were to ask how bicycles work on SO "because you want to write an app about them" you'd get closed tout suite too.

Now, if they are about RPG specific settings, that's different. "What is Bissel's relationship with Ketites" for World of Greyhawk deals with a question space that is specifically inside RPG settings so that's OK. But real-world-history questions aren't. Is that a double standard? Yes. But it keeps the site in topic, where the topic is RPGs.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This makes the site much less useful for Cthulhu gaming. It's a strangely aggressive position for a moderator to take (although, with your moderation, I am used to unnecessarily aggressive comments). \$\endgroup\$ – Graham Nov 13 '10 at 10:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ Really? A personal attack because someone states their opinion in an answer? Vote it down if you don't like the answer, but who's being aggressive here? Sorry if my opinion on the answer to this question doesn't match with yours. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - Justice for Monica Nov 13 '10 at 15:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ mxypik, I'm wondering if you've ever played Call of Cthulhu - Graham's pointed out again and again why such a question makes perfect sense for a CoC Keeper to ask. The real world is Call of Cthulhu's RPG specific setting. \$\endgroup\$ – Jmstar Nov 15 '10 at 0:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk No, not a personal attack. I think your moderation style, both in this post and elsewhere, is strangely aggressive. \$\endgroup\$ – Graham Nov 15 '10 at 1:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Jmstar I have played Call of Cthulhu plenty. And sure, the real world is its setting. But it's a not very useful dilution of the site to then say as a corollary that any question about real world stuff is on topic here. It is a practical answer, not a legalistic one. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - Justice for Monica Nov 15 '10 at 2:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Graham Because I post an answer that has a clear cut opinion on the topic? It sounds like you just don't want strongly held opinions that differ from yours, and that's not a reasonable expectation. I'm not calling names, I'm not closing/deleting stuff I don't agree with - I can't respond to the amorphous "elsewhere" but in this post all I've done is posted a potential answer to the question that doesn't equivocate. Just because I'm a mod doesn't mean I can't state my opinion otherwise - "mod voice" will be delivered via email; otherwise mods participate in the site like anyone else. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - Justice for Monica Nov 15 '10 at 3:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ -1. The tone is better since the edit, but I still disagree with the argument. People setting a game in the World of Greyhawk need info about the World of Greyhawk. People setting a game in French Polynesia in the 1870s need information about French Polynesia in the 1870s. There's no important difference. This approach divides gamers into those who play entirely in the realms of fantasy vs those who don't in order to ward off a problem of "random questions" that shows no sign of arising. \$\endgroup\$ – Dave Hallett Nov 15 '10 at 8:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzpil No, because you have an unnecessarily aggressive turn of phrase. For example, you tell people to "toughen up". It's unpleasant and unnecessary. If you ever wonder why people leave this site, I'd imagine you're part of the problem. \$\endgroup\$ – Graham Nov 15 '10 at 13:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DaveHallet - I would say that is has arisen (the car and phone question) and the community acted immediately to close it. Just because you plan to use the answer to a given question in an RPG context doesn't make something a RPG domain question. RPG writers also need to spell, but spelling questions aren't on topic; we all need to drive to the place our game is in but "how do I find directions to somewhere" similarly isn't. Opening up scope to "you know, anything about the real world" is an untenable dilution of the site. I'd suggest going to vote for a history.SE instead. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - Justice for Monica Nov 15 '10 at 14:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ edit - never mind, let myself get dragged into interpersonal sniping. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - Justice for Monica Nov 15 '10 at 14:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ Huh, the community voted to open it back up, so there you go. \$\endgroup\$ – Jmstar Nov 15 '10 at 16:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ What @Dave said. We are not going to get random trivia questions, no matter what we do allow that might appear to have a slippery slope that way. Who would ask them? We're all here for the roleplaying games. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Nov 15 '10 at 19:25

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