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Hoping to hear some others' perspectives, so as to better-calibrate mine to the community's. I'm struck by two of yesterday's questions, one closed as too broad, the other answered many times.

Now I totally get that context matters: we can answer questions about spell use and expect relatively tight construction, and we would expect... looseness when it comes to GM advice. Really, I'd just love it if a fewpeople weighed in with their thoughts.


For reference, here's the FAQ guidance on breadth:

too broad - if your question could be answered by an entire book, or has many valid answers, it's probably too broad for our format

There are either too many possible answers, or good answers would be too long for this format. Please add details to narrow down the answer set or to isolate an issue that can be answered in a few paragraphs.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ By the way--I have read the other "is this "too broad" questions. I assume this is the sort of issue that's good for the community to periodically re-assert stances on. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Jan 4 '16 at 23:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ meta.rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/5758/… \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Jan 4 '16 at 23:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ I was hoping that the querent would narrow the question per my suggestion, but maybe I didn't put enough smilies into the comment. I suppose I could edit it for him, but that won't (per @mxyzplk's point) "teach a man to fish." I like the answer, since you answered all of it from general to specific, but would have preferred he refine the question so that it meets a "good question" standard. (I had to learn by trying on asking a decent question for this format). \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jan 5 '16 at 18:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ Insofar as the second question, the reply was an attempt to "solve the problem" but I didn't take the extra step of a frame challenge, which is what @mxyzplk's answer looks like. What I took as given was "player versus DM friction" for a given cause, and recommended a method/tool based on experience. The frame challenge was correct, IMO, since two different issues were folded in together, in detail, which I had diagnosed as a larger issue at the table of DM vs Player friction. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jan 5 '16 at 18:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast just to be clear--I don't mean to impugn any who answered the second. I don't tend to think that one is too broad, but I've seen plenty closed that look just as broad as it. (It seems to me, actually, that whether or not a question like that lives on as open or closed depends mostly on whether two or three thoughtful answers accrete to it before five close-votes do!) In any case, I think we've seen a lot of good experience come to bear on that second question, and for that I'm glad. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Jan 5 '16 at 19:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ No impugn inferred, but since I participated in both, I thought I'd share how I saw it. (I think I voted to close one of them). \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jan 6 '16 at 15:14
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There's no hard rules, though there is some good guidance in Why was my question closed as too broad, unclear, or opinion-based? (especially noting that unclear and too broad are often used interchangeably by people).

In this case, the cantrip question ("can cantrips affect the environment") is a mix of broad and unclear, in that obviously some do and some don't, but he really is asking about one cantrip, and his real issue is understanding that spells do what they say and side effects aren't RAW. Asking a more general question than you have throws up red flags to people and there's VtC, sometimes as broad and sometimes as unclear. You did a good job of answering it and covering all the bases, but when an answer requires multiple clauses about "what you think you're asking, what you are asking, and what you should be asking" it's a sign it's a poor question. Ask yourself, why does that question even say "cantrip?" Why isn't the question about any spell? Another muddy-thinking red flag.

The GM question, like many technique questions, was already closed once as unclear and then was reopened. It is just barely on the other side of that line now IMO - which is why many of the answers are a frame challenge.

Basically, both of these questions are on the line of "I'd vote to close in their current state if I were mildly irritable today." I haven't VtCed either (I did the GM one in its previous way more incoherent state).

You note the second has lots of answers like that's a good thing, but actually that many answers can be a sign that it is indeed too broad or unclear. In this case I think after one close and reopen people kinda just think "well, he's not going to get any more clear on this and that's actually his problem, because he thinks PCs pointing out logic holes in his plot is a bad players problem." So they reopened and are answering.

The cantrip one could have used some more clarification - if only because the clarification process often helps the OP actually get their thinking straight and gain clarity even before answers roll in. In the end, your answer is the "right" one most likely, but we like to teach a man to fish.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for taking the time here: I'm keenly appreciative of the reality that administering any organization entails a lot of time explaining oneself, often repeatedly! I guess I'm sympathetic to a newcomer to D&D who finds it hard to assimilate everything.... I agree that the thinking might have been a bit muddy, and hopefully the answer cleared things up a bit. (I was also thinking of the many answers to #2 as a possible red-flag.) \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Jan 5 '16 at 0:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ Sure - but just remember, we're not doing a hapless newbie a favor by keeping their unclear question open. Placing on hold isn't "being mean," it's the active, engaged process by which we help people think clearly about their problems. Think of it as similar to the Socratic method. It does put some of the thinking responsibility back on the asker, but it's done because it will help them figure out their answer more effectively. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Jan 5 '16 at 0:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also always remember that questions are put "on hold" rather than "closed", which is highly deliberate to show the asker that not all is (necessarily) lost, it may just need work. \$\endgroup\$ – MrLemon Jan 5 '16 at 9:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MrLemon of course. But I also know--via complaints from first-timers--that message doesn't always come across that way. Particularly if unaccompanied by friendly comments! \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Jan 5 '16 at 15:23

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