There are situations, when you know something that is related to the question, but it's too insubstantial to be a proper answer. For example, let's imagine a question:

In which edition of game X dwarves are allowed to play as mages?

Now, let's say that I know a bit of game X, but I haven't played in a while and I know that in editions 1 and 2, there were no dwarven mages. I do a bit of search over the internet but can't find much, and since the question still has no answer, I put a comment:

I'm sure that they are not allowed in editions 1 and 2, so it had to be in 3rd or higher

This is definitely not enough to make a good answer, but at least it is useful information. Yet, I've noticed that such comments are getting moderated with "do not answer in comments!" messages from the mods. I'm just curious why? Isn't providing a bit of relevant information better than not providing anything at all?

This post is not in regard to any question in particular, but I've noticed this weird trend in RPG.SE that is not present in other SE pages.

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3 Answers 3


You should not answer in comments.

Not partial answers, not full answers. Not "leads on" an answer. Not "I would answer but I'm tired/just woke up/am drunk so I'll just say this..." Not answers that you think aren’t good enough to post as answers. Not little helpful tips, not helpful suggestions, not useful anecdotes. These will be deleted. Answer in answers.

And if your answer isn’t even good enough for you to want to put it in an answer post, just don’t post it at all then.

Answering in comments does the following things:

  1. It bypasses question closure. They're closed for a reason.
  2. It provides an answer that can't be marked as an answer for future people's knowledge.
  3. It contributes to long comment debates as you can comment on an answer, but it's unclear what you're commenting on in a comment thread.
  4. It is "cheating" by locking your answer to the top. Accepted answers or answers with higher scores should go to the top to indicate their quality. Bypassing that by sticking your answer in a comment on the question is unacceptable.
  5. It bypasses all our quality control mechanisms: we can't downvote your "answer", edit it, or comment on it to request clarification or improvements. Answers also bump a question to the top so that people will scrutinize the answer; comments don't do this.
  6. It gets in the way of people who are busy using comments correctly to improve the question.

The long and short of it is, every part of how the site functions, all of which have lengthy justification as being part of the process of SE - rep, answers, accepts, edits, votes, etc. - is obviated by using comments for answers. So every good goal of all that functionality is nullified by this practice.

Now, "but the hapless questioner could use that info!" In nearly all cases, someone posts the same information in a much more comprehensive answer. Or take the time yourself to write a real answer. We don't like crappy questions or crappy answers, and we'd rather not have the Q or A than to have one that doesn't meet site quality (hence closes/deletes, part of the standard SE functionality). If you don't care enough to write a real answer: don't. The likelihood that you're the only person in the world or on the site that knows that bit of info is very small.

While users are welcome to steal the info in the comments to generate answers of their own, that will not slow the pace of dealing with the answers-in-comments via flagging and deletion.

  • 10
    \$\begingroup\$ I know it can be annoing when someone provides FULL answer in the comment, but if this was deleted i wouldn't get answer at all. \$\endgroup\$
    – Yasskier
    Oct 16, 2016 at 7:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ No answer at all is considered a better situation than a poor/partial/incomplete answer in comments \$\endgroup\$
    – Wibbs
    Oct 16, 2016 at 7:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Wibbs in the link I've provided I am more than happy with the comment, since I wouldn't EVER guess to look in that direction. \$\endgroup\$
    – Yasskier
    Oct 16, 2016 at 7:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ And that is why answers are not OK in comments here. It discourages writing answer posts, and makes askers put less effort into making their question attractive to answer. "Why bother, when I can get my answer from a comment?" We don't want to deal with that headache here. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 16, 2016 at 8:30
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ Another answer that shows the need for bounties on meta: +many if I could. \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60 Mod
    Oct 16, 2016 at 12:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ Instead of deleting a comment that is providing an answer, you should sometimes move the comment to an answer of its own. Eventually community wikifying it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Cœur
    Jan 4, 2018 at 10:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ The person who posted it should do that if they care to. And CW is seldom a solution to anything. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Jan 4, 2018 at 12:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ "Not little helpful tips, not helpful suggestions, not useful anecdotes" All other sites I have seen on the network disagree with this interpretation. Now, if RPG.SE wants to be different, that's fine, but the placeholder text on the comment box under questions here states "use comments to ask for clarification or add more information" (emphasis mine). This placeholder text should probably be updated to reflect RPG.SE's unique rules. If this is the case, how should one point out structural/compliance issues with a post? #6 in your post is directly contradicted by your first paragraph. \$\endgroup\$
    – TylerH
    Sep 26, 2018 at 22:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ I agree with @TylerH : Our site's text and rules should be updated to reflect this. The Meta is a good place to discuss information, but relying on people to go back and sift through years of internet records to find the "real rules" is naive and confusing. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 27, 2018 at 16:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk "The person who posted it should do that if they care to." The person posting it doesn't care, but how does that have any bearing on it being actually useful to the asker and therefore worthy of being moved to an answer? \$\endgroup\$
    – user64742
    Nov 29, 2018 at 5:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ There is a major flaw with this stance - anedoctes are the bread and butter from the RPG community. Having a comment below an answer saying "I tried this ruling and it works" or "I use this too, but I do so and so differently" or "I tried this concept already but you have to watch out for..." are extremelly valuable. They provide experience, feedback and insights that you wouldn't otherwise grasp from the answer alone. They provide important context, and blanketing those as "bad things" seems counterproductive to me. \$\endgroup\$
    – T. Sar
    Feb 28, 2019 at 13:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ @T.Sar they are not bad things, put them in an answer. Or if the poster wants to incorporate them, fine. In the end the votes tell; if the anecdote really is helpful maybe it'll have enough upvotes to save it from the reaper. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Mar 29, 2019 at 3:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk An answer that just references another answer to add extra insight is way worse than a useful comment, and an aswer that says the same thing as another one but adds a little line or two is just outright noise. You answer doesn't reference the "votes tell if the anedocte stays or is gone". It just offers a blanket "don't do this, they will be deleted", and as-is it is counter-productive. The reaper, if he follows the stance on this answer, will be doing more harm than good to the community and actively reducing useful just to stick to rules that do not reflect the reality of the hobby. \$\endgroup\$
    – T. Sar
    Mar 29, 2019 at 11:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ This answer fights so hard against the SE design and even site praxis. It's so exaggerated, hyperbolic, hostile to answers, and askers. In the end the desire to "not be SE" leads to a worse site with worse Q&As and upset users. \$\endgroup\$ May 27, 2020 at 2:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ This seems arbitrarily hostile to /intentions/. I would wager the majority are not trying to "cheat" the system. If a user can provide something useful that isn't full answer worthy and would even potentially be deleted as a BAD answer, that it should neither be an answer nor a comment under this ruling and is input lost for no reason other than it is easy to throw a one-liner mod comment out. \$\endgroup\$
    – IT Alex
    Nov 12, 2021 at 21:05

I'll step in and provide some background here -- the reason why you see things that resemble "partial answers" in other Stacks is because troubleshooting is an iterative process. "Try turning it off and on again" is not an answer -- yet it may not be possible for anyone to answer the question well without the querent being guided through troubleshooting steps in the comments first, some of which may resemble speculative "answers" to the uninitiated. This is an OK use of the comment system in context -- the commentator is helping the querent improve the question at that point, and speculative, "throw it at the wall and see if it sticks" answers are pretty much low quality by definition.

In the RPG.SE space, by and large, though, that's not true -- we don't deal with the type of technical-troubleshooting questions that necessitate this iterative behavior much at all! Since we don't need to accommodate these answer-bits-in-comments, we don't.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I didn't have in mind more technical sites but things like Scifi stack exchange, where such answers are even sometimes encouraged - example \$\endgroup\$
    – Yasskier
    Oct 16, 2016 at 5:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Yasskier Although Shalv was kind enough to offer some reasons, RPG.SE isn't really the place to get explanations for why other Stacks do what they do. You may find this answer useful. \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Oct 16, 2016 at 6:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Yasskier I think that might not be the link you meant to use as an example? All the comments there are engaged in troubleshooting, and there's nothing there to support “such [comment] answers are even sometimes encouraged.” \$\endgroup\$ Oct 16, 2016 at 6:45
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @BESW I'm not saying "do as others sites do" just trying to understand the reasons why this SE does it slightly different. \$\endgroup\$
    – Yasskier
    Oct 16, 2016 at 7:28
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie Yes, you might call finding the title of the book "troubleshooting" but so would be the comment for the example question I've posted in the OP. \$\endgroup\$
    – Yasskier
    Oct 16, 2016 at 7:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Yasskier Scifi.se is not a very good standard to gauge Stack-wide policies by. The answer I linked includes the Stack-wide FAQ on comments from Meta Stack Exchange, which describes the standard from which all other Stacks deviate according to individual need. Scifi.se moved in one direction, RPG.SE moved in another. You'll find that scifi.se's deviation is much further from the meta faq than rpg.se's. \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Oct 16, 2016 at 7:36
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Fair enough @BESW, I'm just trying to understand things and maybe suggest that sometimes being such strict with rules is not in the best interest of the question, but I'm humbly bowing my head to people with more experience :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Yasskier
    Oct 16, 2016 at 7:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Yasskier If you want to talk about what practices would be best for RPG.SE, you'll get a better dialogue if you focus on RPG.SE's situation rather than on what other sites are doing. Each site has to make the decision for its own situation. There are arguments for a laxer approach on RPG.SE--but "other sites do it" isn't persuasive unless you talk about why they do it, what costs/benefits they experience, & how their learning transfers to this Stack. (SFAIK scifi.se didn't make a policy decision so much as stumble into a culture that refuses to consider cracking down on comments.) \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Oct 16, 2016 at 8:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, frankly I don't use a lot of the other SEs even in areas I'm interested in because their question/answer/comment hygeine is terrible making them mostly like using the forums that already exist in these areas. Besides, we're not making this up ourselves, there's Stack Exchange-wide guidance on what comments are for and it's "improving a question or answer" period. Lax enforcement on other sites doesn't move me. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Oct 16, 2016 at 17:10
  • 9
    \$\begingroup\$ @Yasskier While I enjoy some participation at the Sci Fi SE, I find it's use of comments and lack of clean up a downer. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 17, 2016 at 15:57
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ I just encountered a similar issue on scifi.SE. It's disheartening to hear that apparently their answers-in-comments philosophy does not match the one here. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Apr 27, 2018 at 20:33
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Encountered this answer from this main site question, and it occured to me that some questions here are similar to "iterative troubleshooting", at least product identification questions. Neither asker, nor answerers, usually don't know everything related, but some back-and-forth might jog memories, or expose links to images, in an answer-like manner. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 27, 2020 at 8:59
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Incidentally, "troubleshooting" style comments seem to play just fine here. If someone comes in asking how to address a social situation, comments often ask "Did you talk to other players? What did they say?" \$\endgroup\$
    – fectin
    Oct 4, 2021 at 17:16
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @fectin -- that is entirely a fair point \$\endgroup\$
    – Shalvenay
    Oct 5, 2021 at 2:30

Answering questions can be a collaborative process

Banning users from working together or sharing information leads to lower quality answers. Information is good and useful and can be used to build a high quality answer, but that isn't possible if there is no way to communicate.

As much as it would be great to think that each answer is totally independent and there is no iterative process, that isn't true.

It can be difficult to formulate an entire answer in 1 go. You need to read bits and pieces here and there, some from the core rules, jump through feat/class/skill descriptions, trawl faqs and erratas, look at designer tweets, etc.

Sourcing all of these pieces of the puzzle can be difficult. Posting a partial answer would be helpful for other users to incorporate into a final complete answer. Otherwise there is a situation where a number of users each know most of the answer, but no one has a complete answer.

Your choices are:

  1. Post a partial answer and accept that the punishment for sharing what you know is to be downvoted.
  2. Wait for someone else to post a partial answer, then comment presenting what you do know.
  3. Wait for someone else to post a partial answer, then incorporate their post into what you know and post your answer, downvoting theirs.
  4. Leave the thread alone, eventually someone will conduct enough research to present a complete answer.

Or, post the partial answer as a comment so that other answerers build on it. Once an answer is made then the comments can be flagged as redundant. I believe this is the cleanest and most effective solution.

On the main site you can comment partial answers

The arguments presented by Mxyzplk don't really hold up to any amount of scrutiny.

It bypasses question closes. They're closed for a reason.

Nothing is bypassed, partial answers are not answers. Comments are allowed for a reason, comments can lead to reopening.

It provides an answer that can't be marked as an answer for future people's knowledge.

You can always make an answer, copy paste the comment, and credit the user

It contributes to long comment debates as you can comment on an answer, but it's unclear what you're commenting on in a comment thread.

By this logic all comments are bad.

It is "cheating" by locking your answer to the top. Answers with higher votes/accepted answers should go to the top to indicate their quality. Bypassing that by sticking your answer in a comment on the question is unacceptable.

Votes indicate popularity, not quality, and comments are not answers. Comments cannot earn rep and are ephemeral. There is no competition.

It bypasses all our quality control mechanisms: we can't downvote your "answer", edit it, or comment on it to request clarification or improvements. Answers also bump a question to the top so that people will scrutinize the answer; comments don't do this.

Comments are not answers in the first place. Every day I see people reply for comments asking for clarification or making suggestions.

It gets in the way of people who are busy using comments correctly to improve the question.

While SE's designer obviously has a lot of problems, you shouldn't actively make the site worse just to work within that problematic design. Barring multiple discussions in one comment thread is bad for everyone.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ The argument is that answers shouldn't be allowed in comments for many reasons, in many circumstances. I addressed one of those circumstances (closed comments) because your counterargument to it seemed problematic. I am not claiming that the only reason answers should not be given in comments is because of how they interact with closed questions. \$\endgroup\$ May 27, 2020 at 1:06
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I think your argument is definitely more solid on that point now. \$\endgroup\$ May 27, 2020 at 2:04

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