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Today, a question was asked regarding the bonus action granted by the Crossbow Expert feat in D&D 5e. There's been a large amount of contention about whether or not the question is a duplicate of not one, not two, but three other questions.

The feature in question has a different name and wording than the Shield Master feat, which was asked about in the first potential duplicate. The difference between the wording, and that they're questions about different features may exclude these from being duplicates.

The question makes an effort to include research about the order of actions and bonus actions, which is the content of the second potential duplicate. This may be a duplicate because, if the wording of the feature doesn't imply a necessary order, then the answers to these questions would be the same. It additionally may not be a duplicate, because the asker seems to want to know whether the wording does imply an order or not.

Finally, if the question is asking about whether the order is specified in this case, answers would be the same as the third potential duplicate.

Is this question actually a duplicate of any of these questions? Could any of these questions be considered duplicates of each other?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Depending on the amount of overlap found between these six questions you've listed, the D&D 5e community here might also wish to consider whether creating a canonical question or two would be in order. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Mar 1 '17 at 23:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ I considered asking about that, but didn't want to bloat this post with more than one question. Additionally, there are only 3 linked questions: I've repeated the references to attempt to clarify which potential duplicate I'm referring to in each block. \$\endgroup\$ – inthemanual Mar 1 '17 at 23:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ I follow. I've edited so it's obvious which links are the same. So, four questions, one of which may be a duplicate of three others. I'm mentioning the canonical question thing because answerers may wish to present it as part of a solution (if it's appropriate, it may well not be at all); don't feel pressured to mention anything about it in your question. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Mar 2 '17 at 0:09
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I don't think it's a duplicate. The heart of the question boils down to the specific "When you use..." wording, which is mentioned in passing as making a difference in some low-voted answers on at least one of those other questions but not treated specifically.

So given the question is "normally you can use bonus actions anytime, except when order is stated like "immediately after." But when it says "when you use X" can you take the bonus action anytime or just anytime after X?" None of the extant questions clearly treat this edge case, hence the question.

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The second potential duplicate fits as a canonical answer.

After careful analysis, I think the second linked "duplicate" fits the best as a canonical question and answer. With a simple edit to the one existing answer, to include that certain abilities grant bonus actions when certain actions are taken, but don't necessarily specify the order in which the action and bonus action must be taken do allow for the action and bonus action to be taken in any order, the answer to that question would correctly answer all 4 questions, which is the basis for a duplicate, and the question it is linked to is arguably the most straightforward and canonical of the bunch. If that edit is made, or another answer created and accepted, the other questions should all be marked as a duplicate of it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I would like to note that I am relatively new to this, and I would appreciate feedback on this suggestion, especially from any who disagree. \$\endgroup\$ – inthemanual Mar 2 '17 at 6:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ When it comes to determining whether one question is a duplicate of another, only the questions matter - the answers are actually irrelevant. In this case, the question is about a specific feat, and the wording of that feat. The second possible duplicate is about bonus actions in general, without reference to any specific feat. The questions are definitely related, and could potentially share an answer, but they're about different things. \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Mar 3 '17 at 9:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ The reason why answers don't matter when identifying duplicates is that saying "the answer is on this other page about an unrelated topic" doesn't actually answer the question in a direct and easily understandable format. It's the same problem we have with link-only answers, or (for that matter) with answers that amount to "Google it" or "re-read the rules, and carefully this time." \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Mar 3 '17 at 9:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GMJoe - The basis for duplicates is that they have the same potential answers, as seen here: meta.stackexchange.com/a/10844/348188 \$\endgroup\$ – inthemanual Mar 3 '17 at 16:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ Huh, weird - That's rather different to what this meta question and answer implies: meta.rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/5808/… . Is it that we've got a slightly different definition of a duplicate here, or are we doing things wrong, or am I just misunderstanding? \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Mar 3 '17 at 22:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GMJoe I think there might be a basis for a fundamental meta Q there: "what do we consider duplicates?" or the like. I've certainly been operating on the theory that same/similar answer points toward (though may not be 100% indicative of) duplicate question, though I can't point to where I obtained that notion. Probably chat- or comment-guidance from SSD early in my tenure, IIRC. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Mar 4 '17 at 17:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Thiebert That's a slight misreading of that link, with not-so-slight consequences. Note that it's further explained as "This includes not only word-for-word duplicates, but also the same idea expressed in different words." Different questions that happen to have the same answers are not duplicates and shouldn't be flagged or voted as such. Our go-to example is that many questions can be answered with "Talk to them", but that doesn't make a question about negotiating homebrew disagreements with a GM duplicate of a social conflict about including new people in the group. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Mar 6 '17 at 16:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie While I disagree that the sentence you point out means that some of these questions aren't duplicates, the next paragraph quite clearly does support that idea. However I challenge the idea that we should have a separate question for each "when you use" type wording, and should instead have a canonical question/answer that covers every case. \$\endgroup\$ – inthemanual Mar 6 '17 at 17:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ @THiebert I think there's more misinterpretation. Keep in mind that that the answer you're interpreting is from 2009 — we have had plenty of time to understand and incorporate it, and we're not turning 180 on the six years of RPG.se's precedent on what is and isn't a duplicate, which is already aligned with the general network understanding. If there's more to say there, a full meta is probably called for. (As for the specific case raised above, I have no opinion — if I did, I would have already cast the appropriate super-votes and explained why in an answer here.) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Mar 6 '17 at 18:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie I personally don't see how some of these questions (and answers) aren't the "same idea expressed in different words." I'd like some help understanding where my misinterpretations lies. I'm not trying to challenge anything about the precedent that's established here, just this specific case (or two or three, if we're talking about each question involved). \$\endgroup\$ – inthemanual Mar 6 '17 at 18:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ @THiebert Ah, in this case it's that whether it's a duplicate or not comes down to a close reading of the rules, a good grasp on the functional relationships of the things being asked about, and a close reading of the questions themselves. That makes it hard to clearly judge whether they're the same problem, or whether they're different problems caused by the same wording issue in the rules. When the difference is that fine-grained, disputes in judgement are expected. For my part, it's less impact on the site to leave them open to be answered, so I'm erring toward “not sure; leaving alone”. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Mar 6 '17 at 18:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie It's also my understanding that duplicates are used to keep information central to one place. If, for example, Crawford reversed his ruling on the matter, we'd have FOUR places that need this updated information in order to remain accurate, whereas if we can establish a canonical answer for all like questions, we'd only have ONE place that needs an update (and we could find it through any of the others). \$\endgroup\$ – inthemanual Mar 6 '17 at 18:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ @THiebert When it happens that's a useful effect of duplicates, but still only a benefit if the questions are the same question. When questions are marked duplicate only because the answers are the same, that's baking a judgement about the correct answer into the duplicate vote, but duplicate votes aren't for deciding what the right answer is, up/down-voting is for deciding that. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Mar 6 '17 at 19:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie I'm not trying to decide a correct answer here either. I just think that these questions are all similar enough that a single question could cover all of them, keeping information central to one place and making changes and updates to that information easier. \$\endgroup\$ – inthemanual Mar 6 '17 at 19:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ @THiebert “Similar” is close but not close enough — duplicates are for identical questions. If we already have that single question that does cover them all, then that's a thing to vote for. If one could but doesn't, then they're not close enough. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Mar 6 '17 at 19:37
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If I may address the general rather than the specific: When is [any given] question a duplicate?

This has the answer: When it is closed as such.

It is up to each of us to decide if we consider it to be a duplicate and lodge a close vote accordingly. Like every other part of the voting system this is inherently subjective and individual.

If you encounter a closed as a duplicate question that you think isn't a duplicate then it is your prerogative to try and get it reopened.

Note that there are huge numbers of duplicates that do not get marked as such because doing so relies on someone being aware when reading the new question that there is a duplicate and being able to find the original from half remembered keywords from possibly years ago.

As to the particular, if you think it's a duplicate vote to close. If you think it is a duplicate of more than one question then ipso facto they must be duplicates of one another so vote to close all but one of them. If you don't, don't.

My personal opinion is that this should be allowed to play out on the main site and/or in a chat room - running a shadow discussion on it here in meta doesn't help.

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    \$\begingroup\$ All this can be taken as granted already; the querent is looking for guidance of whether the community thinks it's a duplicate of any particular thing and why. Pointing out the way the close vote mechanism works is a non-answer. It seems what you mean is "we don't need to decide that together, let's just let people vote" which is fine, but I suggest you may want to just say that in place of explaining closing/reopening. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Mar 7 '17 at 15:28

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