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From What's a good system for a short adventure / one-shot in Westeros:

The players should play lowborns, so grim and gritty rules would match my thoughts quite well

What is required to confirm "grim and gritty" rules by our standards?

My answer was (for other reasons) D&D and I said that I personally find it grim and gritty at lower levels and that it can be played grim and gritty all the way. Someone commented, that that's not enough by our gamerec guidelines.

So how do I confirm a game is grim and gritty? Does it need to have something in the rules?

I have played campaigns (Ravenloft comes to mind as a prime example, but you can do so in any setting if the DM says so) where it was pretty clear that your character would die a horrible death, because sooner or later evil will win. I would have described those campaigns as grim and gritty. But there certainly is no rule in D&D that says so. It's the DM's personal campaign style.

How to protect from people saying "but that's not the way I played it, in our campaigns we had all fluffy bunnies jumping around and lived forever after"?

I don't mind their style of D&D. Depending on adventure, campaign and DM mood it might even be my style of play. But I do mind people telling me that it does not fit the requirements, because they decided to have a different style in their games.

I think "I did it, it works, there is no rule keeping you from doing it" should be sufficient for gaming style requirements.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ You mean, like, establishing a policy such as The site's standard for grim & gritty gaming is that the system include rules for permanent scarring or something? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Aug 11 '15 at 16:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan Well, a diamond mod used his mod powers to close the question based on the perceived fact that no answer followed the site guideline. You'd have to ask them how such a guideline on grim&gritty would look, but they seem to have one. I'd just like to get to know it. \$\endgroup\$ – nvoigt Aug 11 '15 at 17:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ The whole grim and gritty thing here is an irrelevant strawman. If you or anyone wants to know "why wasn't my question/answer good enough" just ask that, don't cloak it behind one clause in a whole debated Q&A. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk - SE stop being evil Aug 11 '15 at 19:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nvoigt: I had a draft answer based on a City State of the Invincible Overlord all-thief campaign. My idea was to run it in 5e as all Rogue, with DM picking feats for each different character. As I'd not run one recently, nor run one in 5e, my idea (which would probably work) was not proposed due to how high the bar is set. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Aug 11 '15 at 20:25
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The Question You Asked But Don't Really Have - "What's Grim And Gritty?"

It means what it means to the poster.

Whenever any poster uses a term you think is ambiguous, ask them to clarify it.

That is the sum total of what we should really say about it. No, we will not come up with a RPG.SE functional definition of "what is grim & gritty."

The Question You Really Have But Didn't Ask - "Why Was My Answer Commented As Not Meeting Game-Rec Guidelines?"

That question was mod-closed not because of "lack of grittiness," but because of lack of following our game-rec guidelines. The OP looked for a whole list of items (seven bullet points and additional description), and best as I can tell you were only demonstrating one point of the list in your answer (no magic). You were closer to the line of meeting our standard than all the other answers, but you really only demonstrated that you had played a game in D&D not using magic, not that it met the various criteria the OP listed.

The question was closed because all the answers, not just yours, didn't meet the criteria. As I mentioned you came closest, the rest didn't come within a country mile. It just wasn't worth the trouble to try to get it on topic any more.

As SSD notes we established specific guidelines using the standard SE Good Subjective, Bad Subjective and Back It Up! guidance to try to save game-recs as an on topic item. If the community finds itself unable to follow that guidance then we'll have to disallow game-recs as unsalvageable.

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Game style requirements, sure: we're not going to legislate what people can say about how they successfully play certain games in certain play styles.

Game recommendations, however, have very tight requirements, the main one is that the answer be based clearly and fully on experience doing what the question asks.

The comment that appears to have prompted this meta is:

It doesn't have to get as specific as "Westeros," but so far this answer does not meet our game-rec standards as it does not describe experience with a game sufficiently like the OP's request (it does describe it with a non-magic-using D&D, but that still deviates from the request significantly - grim and gritty, no levels, etc.). – mxyzplk ♦ 2 days ago

That does contain a personal judgement of “grim and gritty”, and I expect you feel it is wrong. Mods can be wrong, and if that was the only reason the whole question was closed, it would have been the wrong thing to do, yes. However, it's only one point in a list of objections, and that one point being possibly misjudged still leaves the rest.

So, the mods don't have a secret definition that was used to close the question. The closure isn't about the definition of “grim and gritty.” What is it about?

The whole question was closed because the answers aren't indicating their or someone else's experience using their recommended games for the specific purpose in the question. Experience that partially matches means that the fatal flaw in the recommendation could easily be in the parts the answer shows no experience with, and there is no way to know (what with the lack of experience). Avoiding untested flaws is part of the point of the game-rec guidelines requiring actual experience on the relevant points. Pointing at a partially-compliant game-rec answer does not make for a slam-dunk example of mods being arbitrary about the closure — to the contrary, borderline, low-quality recommendations along with outright bad answers are a sufficient reason for the closure.

The specific answer pointed to as evidence the mods are making up policy is an example of a borderline answer, and may even be over the line. It indicates that it is based on experience with only some requirements of the question, explicitly saying experience is lacking for other requirements, and justifies its recommendation in the end with “I don't see any drawbacks.” The game-rec guidelines say explicitly that answers based mainly on “I think it would work” should not be posted. There are other issues with the answer, such as contradicting some requirements; which only a rock-solid experience-based answer should expect to have a chance to pull off, as frame-challenging is notoriously hard to do successfully on its own.

This examination of the question is not to judge it: rather, it is to show that the mods' stated reasons for shutting down the question are sufficient, with no need for secret definitions of “grim and gritty.”


As a tangential note, commenting on game-rec answers that are non-compliant to ask them to shape up does not appear to be working very well. In fact, my personal experience of game-rec answers is that they've gotten significantly more lax about following the guidelines, on average, and are rarely improved when reminded about the guidelines. There are still some stellar game-rec answers being written, but instead of becoming the norm and majority as we hoped when the game-rec guidelines were brought in, they're becoming the exception.

This doesn't bode well for the future of game recommendations at RPG.se. Let's up our game, alright? The alternative is not having game-rec at all, and that ban being required — which strict game-rec guidelines was meant to avoid — seems to me to be visible again on the horizon.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ InRe your tangential note. If only a few Game rec Q's make the cut, and most don't, that isn't necessarily a bad thing, is it? I'd see it as the policy mostly working in terms of what does clear the bar. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Aug 11 '15 at 20:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast The intention is that no answers that don't make the cut would be posted, except by new users who just don't know better (which would be few enough to take care of with comments and/or deletion). Game-rec is a problem otherwise, since voting becomes a popularity poll instead of a correctness measure. If even users who know the rules (which the community chose to prevent that) aren't going to follow them the majority of the time, the rules aren't working and game-rec's days are numbered. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Aug 11 '15 at 20:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ What irks me is that I answered his question, which is "To sum it up, i am looking for a system that...", while the thing is closed because I don't have cited experience in something the OP did not even ask for. To me it looks like it's closed because a single site user thinks GoT is such a special unique snowflake that it even goes without saying what might be unique about it and obviously without the OP asking for it. \$\endgroup\$ – nvoigt Aug 11 '15 at 20:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't understand that objection. Answers to game-rec must be 100% experience, no guesswork. If that's not present, nothing else is relevant. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Aug 11 '15 at 20:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie I was coming from the aspect of Game Rec Q's, but your reply about Game Rec Answers does clear it up for me. If the days of game rec Q are numbered, then sad face happens. As to the "popularity poll" (don't disagree with that point) isn't that a risk that any voting site runs, and not just on game rec questions? \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Aug 11 '15 at 20:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ Again, the OP did not ask for anything specific concerning GoT. If it were a D&D spell, the fact that he mnetioned GoT would be considered "fluff". He specified exactly what he is looking for. And I have experience in the exact things he specified. \$\endgroup\$ – nvoigt Aug 11 '15 at 20:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie "100% experience, no guesswork" Hypothetically, if a Q has seven Criteria, and Joe_SE_Answer can confidently affirm one or two games that meet six criteria, should Joe_SE_Answerer still not post the answer? \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Aug 11 '15 at 20:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ On top of that I would hardly consider it guesswork just because the king's fictional name my DM chose did not end in "Lannister". \$\endgroup\$ – nvoigt Aug 11 '15 at 20:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nvoigt I see three instances of explicitly declaring a lack of experience with a key part of the question (doing a one-shot), but saying you guess it should work. That's the opposite of what game-rec rules expect. The rest is debatable, but being debatable hurts its case that it qualifies, not helps it. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Aug 11 '15 at 21:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ That's like telling me I don't have experience in playing single football games, because I play in a league and there's always a next game. What kind of reasoning is that? \$\endgroup\$ – nvoigt Aug 11 '15 at 21:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast The requirement for explaining how the game fits the criteria is supposed to take care of that. If their experience shows a requirement is not necessary or can be worked around, that's actually very valuable. (Votes then decide whether such a flaw in the answer is acceptable.) Ignoring or guessing at the criteria, because experience there is lacking, is different and doesn't fit the rules. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Aug 11 '15 at 21:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nvoigt Not comparable. "Yeah, we tried it and it worked in these ways" is fine; "we tried it and it was disappointing for a one-shot in these ways, but it will work and maybe that doesn't bother you" is fine; "we didn't try that, but my opinion is that it should be fine" is not. You might disagree with the game-rec rules and their strictness, but they are currently the rules, and they are strict by design. Opinion is the old problem they exist to eliminate. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Aug 11 '15 at 21:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie cleared up, thank you. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Aug 11 '15 at 21:24

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