Recommendations of games that fit desired criteria are off topic at RPG.se for established reasons (mostly: it breaks voting and everyone has an opinion they must add to the list).

Earlier today a new user asked https://rpg.stackexchange.com/q/90530, which was closed for obvious reasons, although the asker didn't quite understand how their question is a recommendation request.

Wanting to help, another user posted and self-answered What is the name of this Dragon Ball Z RPG?

This is an obvious gaming of the policy that we don't answer recommendation questions. But does it avoid the problems, and so make it ok? Could it have unintended problems of its own? Is this something we want to see more of?

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    \$\begingroup\$ The DBZ RPG question seems to also have been sort of intended as a sort of Does this product exist? question. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 17, 2016 at 20:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ As the new user who posted the original question that got deleted, I can confirm that it was intended as a product-id question. Being new to RPG.se of course, I didn't know about the product-id tag. It was very discouraging to have my first question deleted. I get that RPGers are hard liners who go by the books (that's kind of the idea of an RPG - people who don't like rules wouldn't do very well with RPG's). I am just giving the feedback that it's not a great way to introduce people to this site. I wasn't helped to understand what was wrong with my question, nor given a chance to fix it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tim
    Commented Dec 8, 2016 at 4:06

3 Answers 3


To SSD's points:

Does [this Q&A] avoid the problems, and so make it ok?

It might. If nothing else, it's a new approach to an old problem: users want to ask game-rec questions, users want to answer them, and direct game-rec Q&A doesn't work. I'm not crazy about asking a question that's known to be off-topic, so that first step needs reconsideration. But I've got no problem with the self-answered product-ID Q&A, no matter the motivation of OP.

Could it have unintended problems of its own?

Certainly it could. I argue below it might also have some unintended benefits. Still urging a wait-and-see approach.

Is this something we want to see more of?

Facially, we've got on-topic questions about non D&D/PF games. That sounds like something that, yes, we generally do want to see more of =)

Product identification is on-topic.

We have a (little-used) tag for this purpose, and by way of full disclosure I'll throw out there: I just asked one of those yesterday.

The "problem" I was having was "people are talking in chat about time travel and that reminded me of something someone--I can't remember who--once said to me about a time-travel game, and my google-fu is on the fritz." Small problem, small question posted, small amount of rep earned, and half an hour later an excellent answer came in.

In the case that occasioned this post the "problem" seems to be "I wanted to mention a game that does this, but the question it would have been answered is off-topic." It's kind-of a strange one, worth looking at deeper, but not facially off-topic or offensive.

This case: where are the harms?

The harms done in this case are (IMO) rather small and theoretical:

  • OP asked a question about something that wasn't really causing them trouble. Thing is, the urge to encourage querents to have actual problems comes from wisdom about the mutability of questions when they're not stemming from an actual problem. That's not a risk here.
  • OP asked a question that, functionally, was just a soapbox to announce to the world the existence of a game. And here's the reason I linked my product-ID question from yesterday: I'd encourage you to compare the two. Aside from the self-answer, I wonder what features tell you that mine isn't just an announcement for Time & Temps? I mean, I say it's not, but do you trust me?

    Given that an "honest" product-ID question and an "announcement" product-ID question are indistinguishable, I can't countenance this being a black mark on either of them.

  • OP provided another user an "answer" to their off-topic game-rec question. Game-rec questions are off-topic because they cause problems. In this case what we saw was a game-rec question get handled appropriately. It was closed quickly.

    Again I want to propose a thought experiment: suppose I had read that game-rec question and thought to myself "hey, there was a game I played that would be good for this person, but I can't remember the name. It had oodles of dice and just felt like the show." I don't try to answer the off-topic game-rec question, but I do ask a product-ID question. What's wrong with that?

    If--as I believe--there'd be nothing wrong with that, what's wrong with OP's product-ID question?

  • OP is gaining rep they "shouldn't" have. First of all, OP gets rep when some user upvotes them, and that's always got to be fine. We don't get to dictate how others vote. And product ID questions... there are, like, four of them that got 20 or more votes. Nobody's getting rich off these things.

Finally, the elephant(s) in the room:

  • This will encourage game-rec questions. An earlier user asked a game-rec question and, after a fashion, got an answer. Won't this encourage others to ask game-rec questions?

    It might. And they'll get closed, quickly. All the problems that game-rec Q&A had are not problems we've seen with product-ID questions. There might be new problems that crop up, but until we see them I think it'd be far too reactionary a response to start judging on-topic questions more harshly.

  • This could encourage more "fake" product-ID questions.

    This one's true. There's nothing stopping me from self-answering a dozen product-ID questions to "advertise" some games I like. And that's... not great, but I don't see it as too horrible, either.

    • advertiser gets "unearned" rep but it's not much, and it's only to the extent that another user upvotes
    • games off the D&D/PF tree see some sunlight. Not exactly a bad thing? Seriously, if for the rest of time we got one "advertising" product-ID question each day it'd take more than a decade to cover the RPGs currently listed on rpggeek. And these questions would comprise a couple-percent of our question base.


This was a little odd. It bears watching to see if it happens a lot, or if it causes problems. It's too soon to say it's harming anything, and it may even have a silver lining.


I posted the "responsive" question and answer. I don't think there is harm in it (obviously, or I wouldn't have posted it) but I'm not sure it was the correct course of action. We probably don't want to promote this kind of activity, but it feels unnecessarily punitive to permanently remove or close the on-topic question that came as a result of the situation.

Were my question to be viewed in a vacuum, it'd be considered on-topic. This is a strange case. On one hand, most product ID questions will not be self-answered because if you know the product you have no reason to ask the community, and self-answering that sort of question does seem, in some ways, like a point-grab. But then there's a problem. We can't disallow self-answering (because that goes against the nature of the site), yet we don't want to encourage that type of behavior because what is to stop every Shmoe from self-answering product-identification questions to farm rep?

To directly answer SSD's questions:

This is an obvious gaming of the policy that we don't answer recommendation question. But does it avoid the problems, and so make it ok?

I think it does avoid the problems of game-rec in this very specific scenario. Game-rec is problematic because there is no "best" answer to a "what game should I play if I like X?" question.

This probably doesn't work if someone asks, "I like dungeons. What should I play?" And I'd be shocked if someone did ask this and it resulted in 300 different self-answered questions from people trying to help regarding every different dungeon-based P&P RPG out there.

I Q&A'd as I did because I know of only one licensed DBZ game that exists -- aside from the original print and it's sequel, there is a fan-made update of the same game, and there are probably some open-setting systems that could adapt fairly well. Other than that, nothing exists. It's a very small edge-case where this type of response even works.

Could it have unintended problems of its own?

I don't think so, given the above. It's a pretty specific scenario where I knew there could be a single "best" answer to a game-rec/does it exist? type question, and I managed to answer it in a way that isn't off-topic (though it has obviously created some contention here).

Is this something we want to see more of?

Probably not, but again this is a pretty specific case that is not likely to come up again.

My vote (and sure, I'm biased) is to keep the self-answered question (because it is on-topic and doesn't violate site policies) but not promote this type of behavior going forward. Again, I think it's a pretty specific case without much (if any) harm done, with honest intentions (to help a new user find an answer in an on-topic way), and which resulted in a bit of a kerfuffle. I don't think there's much opportunity for this type of thing to happen going forward (has it been a problem since game-rec was made off-topic?), but it's too early to tell if this is going to a bigger problem than what it is now. If we do start seeing more of this type of behavior then we should work as a community to address the problem but as it stands, I see no reason to worry until it becomes a bigger issue.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Hmmm not sure if we should differentate there a bit between recent and old questions. With old ones where its unlikely the OP will ask I can see a self answered as solving a problem. But with recent ones: Why not just point out in the comments to the OP how he should reformulate it to make it legal? \$\endgroup\$
    – Thomas E.
    Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 6:34
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ The OP had no knowledge of an existing DBZ RPG, so how could he reformat his question to ask to identify an RPG he doesn't know exists? I \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 6:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ By mentioning it in the comment that there exists one as example I would say but like I said its a possibility just \$\endgroup\$
    – Thomas E.
    Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 10:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasE. Your suggestion is to answer the game-rec question in the comments of the off-topic question? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 13:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ Not answering no. Telling the guy that there could be an answer if heasks for example how this and that specific rpg was called. \$\endgroup\$
    – Thomas E.
    Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 13:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasE. That's a really complicated way to “launder” a question that's off topic into one that looks superficially on-topic. And it would involve explicitly encouraging a weird two-step dance to get a question answered, and the site having strange official ways to use it is hard enough; adding strange secret ways to use the site is too much. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 22:39

No, it is not acceptable.

This just turns us into a weirdly encrypted discussion forum, where newer questions can be used to sub-rosa answer previous closed questions. The problems with this aren't small and theoretical, they are clearly providing junk/off-topic content on the site. game-IDs are questionable anyway, frankly, (for the same reasons as Are "Does this type of product exist" questions acceptable?) but misuse of them (or other questions) to answer off topic questions is not allowed.

The justifications around all this center on "well we want him to get an answer" and "I'm not real happy with game-recs being off topic" - both of which I sympathize with but both of which are still not relevant to how our site operates.

Go use a forum to be a forum, don't try to squeeze it into our format.

It's fine this happened once. But please don't start trying to use other questions to answer off-topic questions as a technique to game the site, that is not appropriate and won't be allowed.


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