Why is the word "Rötschreck" spelled with an Umlaut? was temporarily closed with the reason that it is 'drawing primarily speculation/opinion' (emphasis mine).

I'd like to point out that there is a difference between speculative answers that propose a theory based on facts and ones of opinion and that the close flag is stated to be for opinion not speculation:

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.

The current set of answers are speculative but it feels like this question has been pre-emptively closed by a moderator without allowing the rest of the community a chance to consider whether or not it is opinion based.

Could we have some clarity on whether opinion based is meant to be a catch all close reason or not and whether or not we are allowing speculative answers based on deduction or extrapolation please? because there's not much point in participating in a Q&A site if all we can do is cut and paste sections from the rulebooks.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ The linked question has been reopened now by five community members' reopen votes. (That's not to say this shouldn't still be discussed.) \$\endgroup\$ Apr 13, 2017 at 13:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well that literally happened while I was typing this question out. \$\endgroup\$
    – user28291
    Apr 13, 2017 at 13:24
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, that's fine. I was just posting a comment to mention it'd been reopened. Like I said it's not to say this shouldn't be discussed; it's still probably worthwhile talking over. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 13, 2017 at 13:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ I will offer a hypothesis that it is closed now due to "designer reasons" and the recent decisions pertaining thereto. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 18, 2018 at 15:06

2 Answers 2


First, mod stuff:

"The current set of answers are speculative but it feels like this question has been pre-emptively closed by a moderator without allowing the rest of the community a chance to consider whether or not it is opinion based."

The problem here is that you don't understand how closure works.

A question can be closed or opened by any 5 users in sufficiently good standing. Closure is easier because of the way traffic works, but the system itself is fairly symmetric.

Additionally, special users with special gold tag badges can close or open things with a single vote for being dupes. Maybe someday they'll get to do it unilaterally like mods, but also maybe not.

Also additionally, black-diamond mods can open or close questions with a single vote.

When a moderator closes your question, that doesn't mean it can't be opened again. In this case someone VTCed your question, left a reason, and we disagreed with that reason so we reopened it. That's fine behavior. The fact that the person who thought your question should be closed was a mod is irrelevant.

In order for SSD to be '[not] allowing the rest of the community a chance to consider whether or not it is opinion based' he'd have to do something like post a comment saying "don't reopen this question because we've decided so cause INCOHERENT POWER TRIP" or something. That's not something that's ever going to happen because, unlike certain other democratic processes, we only elect people competent enough to understand the very basics of the powers of the office they've been given. If the mods wanted to close a question without community review they wouldn't cast a close vote: they'd delete it. Or lock the post. Or any number of other things that regular users can't just override if they disagree.

This isn't a problem, no malfeasance occurred, and the assumption of malfeasance was overly uncharitable. Having less power in a system than someone else can be frustrating, but that doesn't make it okay to be mean to people. Remember mods are people too. This is especially directed at the people posting uncharitable and inappropriate things in the comments on SSDs answer. The OP's post is misguided and belies frustration/upsetness at perceived failings in the system, but is not unacceptably uncharitable, at least by my reading.

Actual question time

Speculation is kind of a bad word. In modern times it specifically refers to bad reasoning, so answers that are 'speculation' are automatically bad by definition. It's true that speculation isn't necessarily opinion, but it is necessarily baseless and unsubstantiated in critically important ways. Lots of people believe that bad baseless claims and opinions are interchangeable. I would agree with you that they are not, but that is not really relevant to whether or not speculation is okay in answers.

Our current site policy is that it is okay to close questions based on the answers they are getting rather than the question itself. That policy is something we could change if we decided to, but that's something to discuss elsewhere (i.e. another meta) if you are so inclined.

The network's policy is that close reasons are a courtesy, and don't need to match up with the problems a question has in actuality. This is problematic and not a good policy, but it's the way things work. This means that if your question is closed as unclear and you edit it so that it's now clear but way too broad, we don't change the close reason to 'too broad', we just leave it closed as 'unclear'. This means that even if 'Opinion Based' wasn't the best reason to close this it shouldn't be reopened just because it's not 'Opinion Based'-- you'd need to wait for people who think the question really should be opened.

That said, Opinion-Based was the wrong close reason. The right close reason, if we agree with SSD that the question is drawing too much speculation and should be closed as a result, is "This question is drawing too much speculation and should be closed as a result". Unfortunately, we only have the following options to pick from:

  • dupe
  • off topic
    • custom reason! But as a subcategory of off-topic...
  • too broad
  • opinion based
  • unclear

So if we've decided that 'is drawing bad answers' is the reason it needs to be closed, we have to cram that into one of those reasons. Opinion based and too broad are the most wibbly wobbly of the reasons, and so those are the ones we (ab)use when we have to cram in a reason that, while possibly good or even site-required, isn't on the list.

Anyways, that's my take on why 'opinion-based' happened here, and why really that was probably the most appropriate reason to list.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ "[U]nlike certain other democratic processes, we only elect people competent enough to understand the very basics of the powers of the office they've been given". Good one. \$\endgroup\$
    – user27327
    Apr 14, 2017 at 15:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ One insight that I realise I left out of the other answer (I'll add it when I get more than a reading moment): I originally closed it as “opinion-based” because I (charitably?) assumed it wasn't an off-topic question about how German words are formed – I assumed it was topical, and so the “why” must be about why the designers chose the word. In that case, being the primary RPG-related question, I saw the answers as guessing at the main RPG-relevant point, and that motivated choosing the Opinion reason. (The next go-around I realised maybe that assumption was invalid — hence Unclear then.) \$\endgroup\$ Apr 14, 2017 at 17:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie That makes sense. I mean, I do think 'opinion-based' isn't strictly right for 'why did the designers do X' getting bad answers, cause we ask questions like that all the time with the implicit understand designer commentary or similar is necessary support (and also speculation!=opinion), but 'opinion-based' is the closest close reason we have, which is good enough. We close things with not-quite-right close reasons all the time, cause they need closing and telling that is easier than telling why. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 14, 2017 at 17:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @thedarkwanderer I'm not sure I follow “speculation!=opinion”. Can you think of an example statement that is speculative without being, in their opinion, right? For specualtive=opinion, I'm thinking (e.g.) “it's spelled that way because it derives from röten” is logical-semantics-wise identical to the expanded assertion “I think the designers spelled it that way because they derived it [citation needed] from röten”; or “it's a heavy-metal umlaut” ≡ “I think the designers just chose [citation needed] a heavy-metal umlaut” with each of the italics parts being entirely opinion. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 14, 2017 at 19:11
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ 'right, in my opinion' and 'opinion-based' aren't the same meaning of opinion so I'll skip that. 'Opinion' (as in opinion-based, a matter of opinion, just your opinion) refers (at least as far as I understand) to judgements of taste. SE holds the philosophical position that questions of taste (is candy tasty, are horror movies fun) do not have right or wrong answers, so primarily opinion-based questions are not appropriate. Speculation is rarely a matter of taste. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 14, 2017 at 19:34
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Ah, I see. Except matters of taste are just a subset of the things that are off topic because they're primarily opinion-based. Other things that are PoB include “what do you think is the reason bards can't use wands as foci”, because every answer that doesn't cite the people who know (the designers) is going to be the answerer's opinion as to why it was done. There are many kinds of primarily opinion-based answers that aren't matters of taste. That's where speculation-inviting or -asking questions fall under it, and why speculating on facts = opinion. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 14, 2017 at 19:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ Those are other things we close as opinion-based but those are no more answered by an answerer's opinion than "where can I find the rules on called shots" is. "On page 63 of [this book](link)" is just as much an opinion in that sense of the word as the answers to your question would be-- that sense of opinion merely means a position held by someone. The problem with the answers to your question is that they would be held without basis; they are speculation. This is a semantic argument, though, and likely not a fruitful one. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 14, 2017 at 20:12
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Well I think I'm going to drop out of this site again, if speculation os going to be treated as opinion then there's literally no point in answering questions that can only be based on the rules - especially when questions on GM Techniques are treated way differently \$\endgroup\$ Apr 15, 2017 at 17:35
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @StillNotHappy 1) instead of trying to use weird presence-denial threats, consider posting on meta. Explaining the problem and why you think it should be different gives other people the opportunity to explain any misunderstandings you might be making. For example, assuming you read my answer, you should be aware that 'speculation' in this context refers only to explicitly bad reasoning. I hope you agree we don't want bad answers to GM-techniques questions or otherwise! It sounds like you might be thinking that rules support is the only way we let an answer count as not-speculation \$\endgroup\$ Apr 15, 2017 at 17:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @StillNotHappy Actually, anything with any kind of support is not speculation. The thing is, different people can disagree on what sufficient support is. For example, I've played games with loaded dice to hide player rolling intent before. However, as loaded dice are famously and historically used for this purpose I tried to rely on that sort of support for an answer, but we had disagreement as to the merit of 'overwhelming historical precedent, with citation' as sufficient support for my position and it got deleted (the question had kinda a big fight so I left it at that). \$\endgroup\$ Apr 15, 2017 at 17:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ That isn't to say that 'overwhelming historical precedent, with citation' isn't sufficient support for an answer, just that people decided it wasn't sufficient support for my answer (well, actually they just kinda nuked everything that didn't fit what they were looking for, and it probably would have gone differently if people were just looking at the one answer, but the idea still stands). We have a number of common ways to support things here: rules text citations, game experience citations, arguments from a solid theoretical standpoint, designer commentary citations, and rpg blog/forum. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 15, 2017 at 17:59

Generally: yes

To answer the general question, yes, a question that is drawing speculation gets put on hold. There's something wrong with the question if that's happening.

This is because speculation = opinion. This isn't unprecedented: when questions are drawing primarily opinions, that indicates that (for whatever reason), there is something wrong with the question's formulation such that those are the answers that it is drawing. The trigger for using the primarily-opinion based close reason is:

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.

A question that has only answers that are “almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise” is irrefutable evidence that that is the kind of answer it will tend to have.

Specifically for that question: it's not clear what's going on with the question

The difficulty with this question appears to be a slightly complicated intersection of a few issues. It's asking a primarily language-based question, but it's also asking “why”. We have precedent for questions about how to pronounce game terms and names, but we have no precedents for questions asking why a game term is linguistically formed the way it is. We have a precedent of closing questions that ask “why” a game detail is the way it is, unless asking specifically for the designers' reasons why.

When I held that question, that followed this reasoning process:

  1. It wasn't held because people were constructively reasoning about language. That kind of logical construction is pretty commonplace here in answers. However, there's the problem that how languages work is off topic — if how German words are constructed is what the question is asking, it's on the wrong site.

    One point on the side for “leave open”, one point on the side for “hold”. (I don't actually use a discrete points-based system when making these decisions, but it's useful illustration right here.)

  2. There's more to the question. It's asking “why” the word was chosen. This can be either a request for why it's that way in terms of how German works (off topic) or why the game term was chosen (on topic). However, historically a question about why a game detail was chosen will draw answers based on guesses, rather than facts and expertise, unless it explicitly asks for designer statements.

    Plus, it's unclear whether the question is asking how German works or whether the question is asking why the designers did what they did, which is a hold reason.

    One point for “hold” from being unclear, ½ point for “hold” for possibly being about how German works (off topic), ½ point for “hold” for possibly asking a “why” design question without being explicit.

  3. That's two hold reasons checked off, with a very little bit of uncertainty (precedent for asking how to pronounce game terms being OK) on the other end of the scale.

  4. Which hold to choose — primarily opinion-based or unclear? I was already charitably assuming the question wasn't off-topic. I assumed that the first part of the question (“Why is Rötschreck spelled as it is then?”) wasn't merely about how German words are formed – I assumed it was topical, and so the “why” must be about why the designers chose the word, just failing to clearly indicate that to prevent guessing answers. With that assumption, I saw the answers as guessing at this topic point:

    • “They chose a heavy metal umlaut because Rule of Cool!” ×1
    • “No, they derived it from a declension of rot that is spell with a ö because of their grasp of authentic German!” ×2

    All answers claim to know why the designers spelled it this way, but do not support the claims. Looking back to the question it seemed obvious that this failure was because, the way it is worded, the question can be validly answered with speculation rather than requiring evidence. That motivated choosing the original close reason of “primarily-opinion based”. I put the question on hold without any further hesitation.

    (This assume-it's-topical view was just the lens through which I was already evaluating the question and its answers, so it was closer to instant than this unpacked retelling of this step suggests.)

Now, the problem is that the question is currently still unclear on whether it's even on topic or what its topic is. Pronunciation? That's fine, that's on topic. That appears to be why it was voted un-held. But this is the problem with compound questions: that's not the only thing it's asking.

It's also asking “Why is Rötschreck spelled as it is then?” Is that a question about how German works, as the first close-voter feared, or is that a question about why the designers made that spelling choice, as I charitably assumed? This remains unclear.

The answers do nothing to resolve this problem either. On the subject of how to pronounce it (on topic), they're fine. On the subject of why it's spelled that way, the answers are primarily focused on how German works, which validates that experts perceive this as a question about how German works — which is off topic. To the degree which they pay attention to the issue of why the designers made that spelling choice, the answers are entirely speculative, unsupported by references to designers statements — which is opinion. Both support holding the question.

So right now the question has been reheld as “unclear” with a link to this post. If it's about how German works — as the first close voter worried it was — then it will remain held or it will be moved to German.se (or more discussion will be had about where the line between off topic language questions and on-topic pronunciation stuff is). If it's about why the designers made that spelling choice, then it will remain held until it is edited to be the different question about designer statements, instead of the current question about our opinions on “why”.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ This seems to me to be a perfect example of the overly strict moderation that some people have complained about. Speculation is not opinion. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 13, 2017 at 18:37
  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ @StillNotHappy That's wonderful to know, but it's a significant derail from discussing the substance of this case, so I'm not going to respond beyond this. These comments should be for discussing the subject at hand. You're welcome to ask a new question, and link to this, if you have further to say on your own subject. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 13, 2017 at 18:39
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ At least this seems to generate some controversy. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 13, 2017 at 21:34
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ @Baskakov I'm not sure I follow. Generating controversy isn't itself something to aim for or celebrate. And now that I know you've seen this, I'm not sure why your question remains unclarified. Is there an obstacle to doing so? \$\endgroup\$ Apr 13, 2017 at 22:02
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I've noticed that a lot of Baskakov's questions get closed \$\endgroup\$ Apr 15, 2017 at 17:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie Yes, I was too lazy to do it, and didn't have a lot of time with full Internet access, most of my PC time was without any connection at all. I didn't "celebrate" controversy, I just noticed that your answer generated some. I happen to disagree with you, while controversy isn't a problem by itself, it is a common sign of a problem. But whatever, I will try to clarify the question soon. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 17, 2017 at 11:25
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Baskakov Probably just miscommunication then. The phrase "At least X" is used to point out something the speaker thinks is a positive thing in what they think is otherwise a negative situation. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 17, 2017 at 14:06

You must log in to answer this question.