In this question I spent some time in comments with @detly to refine and clarify his problem for a possible answer.

With further clarification, I read the question again and had one of those moments: the problem cited is a symptom of the different problem, a problem related to @GMJoe's answer on in-game leadership, or at-table leadership, as a path toward resolution.

The fingerprints of the XY Problem were clear to me.

My assessment: Based on information provided, this group of half a dozen has not formed a team, and has little-to-no leadership.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing for TTRPG's. Our hobby is a fun activity where success is usually increased as a result of all contributing. Plus, peer leadership is one of the trickier bits of that art. Leaving theories of leadership aside, I did not challenge the frame. It was tempting.

First instinct:

Your problem won't go away, because what you describe is a symptom of a group that isn't a team, that hasn't got a team focus. Until you address that group dynamics issue, this symptom won't go away. An answer like that is a big time buzz kill. As I try to parse the norms and memes of this community, such an answer would be condemned.

Second instinct:

Offer a bandage for the sucking chest wound, here's the first aid kit. That's all the tool suggestion can be: a band aid. No idea how well developed the group's social contract is, or will become. (One hopes nothing but success on that score).

Justification/Rationalization 1:

The tool is the kind of thing @detly asked for. (Con - If I look at the XY Problem, it's not directly addressing what looks to be a root cause, and so may not be helpful).

Justification/Rationalization 2:

The teamwork / team building appeal may or may not work in this particular group. It may be beyond the social skills of the querent, the DM, certain group members, and all-in-all "too hard" to fix. This is a leisure activity, is "fixing" worth the effort and social risks associated with it?

All justifications (excuses?) considered, was it wrong Not To Frame Challenge once I recognized what looked like an XY Problem?

I ask this in part because I think @GMJoe's reply was a form of frame challenge, even if not explicitly identified as such. Gears began turning in my head after @Miniman's early comment that "this doesn't answer his question." I was tempted to comment it being a frame challenge, but chose not to for reasons.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Duplicate of meta.rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/3318/… (given "should I" and "should I not" are easily derivable from each other). \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Aug 13, 2015 at 17:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk "You know you're taking a risk by doing it instead of just answering their question." This attitude is part of the problem, and it is in contradiction of the point behind addressing an XY problem by answering X. The standard Link to the SE meta on the XY problem identifies that pretty clearly. I was under the impression that the point is to solve the problem: that's the framework for the XY problem issue. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 13, 2015 at 18:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Mxyzplk: not a dupe, but close enough that closing this makes sense. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 13, 2015 at 18:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk in fact, I'll be just as happy to delete it unless you see any value in it remaining. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 13, 2015 at 18:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast Noting the risk isn't to say “don't do it”, it's to say “have realistic expectations, and accept that rep is on the line (as normal).” \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 13, 2015 at 18:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie My core objection is not the risk, it's the second half of that sentence: "instead of "just" answering the question." A frame challenge is absolutely an answer, and based on what an XY problem is, by nature better than a band-aid ... which is the point. But you are very right in your reply: it is difficult to do well, and not just in the SE environment. In RL when working with people whose jobs are involved, it's not uncommon that 'the real problem to be addressed here' gets some severe pushback. shows scars to prove it \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 13, 2015 at 18:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast Keep in mind that the entire Q&A about frame challenging isn't rules or formal; it's advice for a craft, not a science. It's a map to success, but the territory where success is really measured is the actual voting; and map shouldn't be confused with territory. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 13, 2015 at 18:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ And some folks have a good point in saying "do you really know better than the OP? Maybe they really are asking the question they're asking for a good reason." In general unless the person is obviously hapless you should answer their asked question and then XY into their "real, you think" question. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Aug 13, 2015 at 19:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk (A) The issue of question quality arises -my old saw about partial information- but yes, mind reading isn't an advanced skill in most people. (B) Your comment here suggests a hybrid answer: (1) here's a band aid; (2) here's the likely reason why you are bleeding in the first place. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 13, 2015 at 19:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ More than my comment here, it's step 1 in the answer to the linked dupe question... \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Aug 13, 2015 at 20:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk Apoligies for quibbling about certain words and phrases. The whole "actual answer" language is an obstacle to my finding your FAQ answer to be of more value. That holds a connotation (perhaps unintentional) and implies that a frame challenge isn't an answer, when by an SE general principle, a frame challenge is indeed an answer, or at least an important element of an answer that solves a problem. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 13, 2015 at 20:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk OK, I think this horse is glue, and closing this Q as dupe may be the best choice. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 13, 2015 at 20:18

1 Answer 1


There is no right or wrong regarding frame challenges. Frame challenging is a piece of local jargon that just describes a certain way of approaching the problem and providing a solution. It's not special, just hard to do well, which is why it is a subject of discussion enough to be identified and named.

Like all proposed solutions, whether it's good or bad is a complex combination of substance, thesis, clarity, presentation, persuasion, zeitgeist leverage, and other intangibles.

There is no right or wrong when it comes to these intangibles. In fact, it is exactly because such intangibles require complex, nuanced, and sometimes unquantifiable human judgement to evaluate fully that the up/down voting system exists. The wisdom of the crowd distills a judgement of the quality of these intangibles, whether it's a a frame challenge answer or another kind of answer.

Whether the answer would be condemned or not depends on a lot more than just whether it is a buzzkill. Frame challenges are somewhat risky because poor execution on some of those intangibles can result in a poorly-received answer, but because they're intangibles, it's not always clear why. A well-executed frame challenge can be extremely popular however, if it hits near the sweet spot of all the possible intangibles voters are looking for.

So: there's no right or wrong, only degrees of quality. Whether to frame challenge or not is a matter of personal judgement, and whether it is good or not must be decided in a practical, live test in collaboration with voters. That's the essence of the Stack Exchange model. Personally, I think it's often worth it to find out, but adopting that view requires being OK with the possibility that it will be poorly-received. (There's always next time!)

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    \$\begingroup\$ "wisdom of the crowd" isn't a given, there being a hypothesis running about that collective IQ is lower than individual IQ. (None of us is as dumb as all of us). grin \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 13, 2015 at 18:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast But it's the best we can do without elevating a dictator to do the voting. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 13, 2015 at 18:40

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