Several times, a valid question arises about some topic that unfortunately is not covered by any official source book. These questions do have merit, and the very fact a canonical vacuum exists make them even more worthwhile.

But people very often look down (downvote, vote-to-close) those questions and the few brave that attempt to answer them.

A few examples:

Both questions have answers with downvotes.

I think so long the question is not restricting answers to official sources, One could go to the effort of writing an original, plausible answer. Probably using outdated source material, probably from his own campaign notes.

Is there a way to make a good answer that can fill that vacuum, or is it a doomed endeavour?


2 Answers 2


Obviously there's a way to do it and a way not to do it - see the "How much does a slave cost" question. There's one answer that is based entirely on speculation and historical antecedent ("I'm gonna guess from Roman prices..."), and then there's one that is based on not perfectly canonical but much closer sources (3pp for the same game, etc.). The first one is +8/-11 and the second is +17/-0.

There's not a binary answer here. To the degree to which your answer is not backed up in a compelling way, it'll draw downvotes. To the degree to which it is, it'll get upvotes.

This means that when you answer a question, you should stop and think - how far are you stretching? Are you ignoring closer data? (On the Tressym question, if there was an answer in 5e material and someone answered for Pathfinder, I'd expect downvotes and even delete votes. Since there appears to be not, a Pathfinder analogue is moderately well received at +2/-1.) If you're drawing analogies from really far away ("historical Rome!") you should expect deserved downvotes, while if you're super close you shouldn't.

Back It Up! isn't binary. Answers that completely don't back it up may get deleted, post-noticed, etc. But ones that back it up poorly will get more down than up votes, and those that do it well will get more up than down. The System Works (tm).

Remember - "there is no answer" is OK if there is no answer. Asking for a rule for example, "There's no rule but here's the house rule I've used and here's how it worked out" is the limit as far afield as we want to get - "here's what I'd make up if faced with this" is over the line.

So if you want to answer the Tressym question with reasoning from Roman slavery or from exotic pet stores in your neighborhood assuming a Tressym is like a wombat and a gold piece is like $1 - keep it zipped. If you want to reason it as "exotic familiars in related systems cost about 200 gp" - go for it. Between those, you pays your money, you takes your chances.

  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 again for the last sentence. (Though, to those not experienced in English idiom it may be pretty opaque.) Answerers should recognize that every question comes with its own "degree of difficulty," and the class of questions here are necessarily higher-degree than those with cut-and-dry answers in the rulebooks. \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60 Mod
    Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 2:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ To be honest, I think a lot of folks are overly maligning an answer that shows a worked example using the source text in favor of sourcebook-hunting. Mostly because the latter is an easy way to avoid back-and-forth arguments about the accuracy of an answer rather than because it's better for play. \$\endgroup\$
    – Alex P
    Commented Jul 9, 2017 at 21:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well answered, though I'm not sure "here's what I'd make up if faced with this" should be over the line when there is nothing more authoritative available. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 19, 2017 at 22:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ But it is -- don't do it, it will get deleted as not an answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Nov 12, 2017 at 13:47

The Stack isn't always right.

Your question of how to do better is predicated on the assumption that in these cases, the exampled answers are poor answers. However, reviewing both questions, I stand by both of them. Especially the Roman one.

My best suggestion for these cases is give answers like those you're referencing, and then if people object, go on Chat and attempt to convince people that these answers are right to compensate for any initial reactions. Do remember to utilize any improvements to the answer that are uncovered as part of the aforementioned convincing, though.

  • \$\begingroup\$ You are welcome to disagree with the stack, but any "arguing people's heads off" will lead to quick censure, so I'd recommend against it. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 1:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk are you objecting to my turn of a phrase or what it seems you yourself endorse to do if one disagrees with people's opinions on a question/answer? rpg.meta.stackexchange.com/a/3310/35386 \$\endgroup\$
    – godskook
    Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 1:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @godskook I'm confused by your last comment. The answer you link seems to be summarized by "write good answers, cream will rise, that's the method we'll use," not "argue your head off." In other words, it doesn't seem like the answer you link is mxy endorsing an "argue your head off" strategy. What am I missing? \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60 Mod
    Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 2:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60 "lisardggY points out the other recourses available to you" - mxyzplk "You can go on Chat and attempt to convince people that these answers are wrong, and should be downvoted." - lisardggY I'm assuming that there's not really a difference in this case for upvotes vs. downvotes, but otherwise, yeah.... \$\endgroup\$
    – godskook
    Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 2:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ That's a far cry from "endorsement." And what he said was a far cry from "arguing your head off." This kind of strawmanning doesn't encourage your point being taken seriously. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 3:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk upon further review......how am I strawmanning you? Because yes, when a mod says "[user] points out the other recourses available to you" in answer to a question asking about appropriate behavior, I'm going to take that as you're EXPLICIT endorsement(read: public approval) of those behaviors. As far as "arguing your head off" goes, I've updated my language so that those who get too stuck on phrasing over content can get over the phrasing. Can we use the updated language? \$\endgroup\$
    – godskook
    Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 4:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @godskook Reviewing the activity here I think the current wording is much more constructive. I'll go out on a limb, the strawmanning is probably meant to mean the misrepresentation of what mxyzplk said in the linked meta as endorsing "arguing your head off". Removing that wording is an enormous improvement to this answer. :) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 12:45
  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ Answers should contain their own complete argument for their correctness. That there are other avenues doesn't mean they're a good idea, just that they exist — especially when the point of other avenues being pointed out then was to deal with an odd corner case where the Stack system is slow to correct itself (i.e., legacy upvotes on answers made wrong by later developments). That meta is not generally applicable, it is specific; flipping it around, from advocating for community self-correction of an issue to generally campaigning for upvotes, exacerbates the non-generalisability of it. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 14:41
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ "Argue your point with people in Chat" seems like a bad plan, to me. Even though they are quite nice people. \$\endgroup\$
    – Alex P
    Commented Jul 9, 2017 at 21:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie if a voter is not understanding an answer because of a point of clarification discovered through chatting with that voter, that point of clarification should be added to the answer. Going into chat to start that conversation is often the only way to hash that sort of thing out, though. \$\endgroup\$
    – godskook
    Commented Jul 9, 2017 at 22:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, that's fine. It's going to chat to hector people for downvotes, or campaign for upvotes like a politician, that isn't. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 9, 2017 at 22:51

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