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The title basically sums the question up, but let me elaborate: If you have a question that you don't actually need an answer to, but that you think would benefit the site and users looking for answers in future, can (and should) you ask it?

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Our help center advises:

You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face.

Generally if you're not actually experiencing a particular problem it will be difficult for you to ask a stack-appropriate question for it or respond adequately to requests for clarification or further detail (because there is none to give). We deal best with actual concrete situations.

If you mean you're experiencing a problem but you don't need (plus emphatic underscores) an answer, since you think you can figure it out on your own, you can still ask us, just make sure you convey research effort you've done to solve it. It'll help us pick up from where you're at.

If you've recently experienced a situation and want to show the problem you faced and show how you solved it, you may post a self-answered question.

However in general if you've just thought up a situation you haven't experienced, don't think you ever will, and you're sure someone would want to ask about it... the best thing you can do is just leave it be and let someone who actually experiences that problem ask about it themselves whenever things come to it. Seeding artificial questions is not considered helpful, and mostly leads to low quality material. The fact the situation doesn't exist makes us ill equipped to handle its specifics, due to there being none.

I've asked about problems I think I might be about to run into, but not problems I'm sure I never will.

If you want to provide more detail on the kind of question you're thinking of then I can get more specific, but we can't really answer specifically what may be going on with an unspecified theoretical question.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Most of the rules questions I ask on this site are not questions that matter to a game I am currently playing. A few are from games I've played in the past (example); most are just things I'm curious about (example). They seem to be well received. Are such questions problematic? If no, does this answer change? \$\endgroup\$ – A_S00 Nov 3 '17 at 0:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @A_S00 That's not problematic, but it's also the kind of thing I'm referring to in the last paragraph -- the examples you just gave are the kind of thing we can actually talk about specifically, while all I can do here is make broad generalisations. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Nov 5 '17 at 14:21
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No.

Please don't. Experience shows us question seeding ends up poorly. Because the poster doesn't actually have the problem, they are unable to really answer questions about it or clarify. Then answers tend to be poor.

Then, when someone who does actually have the problem shows up, they get pointed to a crappy dupe instead of getting answers. "Why don't you bounty it, guy with 10 rep?" they are asked.

Let the people that really have the problem ask the question. It ends up better for everyone.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1, the second paragraph in particular is very important, that a seeded question could actually deny a decent answer to a real question in the future is a very good reason not to seed questions. \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Nov 1 '17 at 11:06
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Disclaimer: This answer is a policy proposal, not a definitive answer. Please vote agreement/disagreement as you see fit!

These questions are sometimes okay.

It's fine to ask a question to which you don't actually need an answer, as long as it is an otherwise good question. Many good, well-received questions on this site were asked with no motivation besides "the asker was curious."

Examples:

I suspect there are many, many more good questions on this site that were asked merely because the asker was curious; I've chosen these examples because I'm sure that's why they were asked, either because:

  • ...there's no possible way they could solve any other type of problem (the questions).
  • ...they explicitly mention that they were asked for a reason like "I saw this other question and it made me wonder if..."
  • ...I asked them, so I know that's why I asked them.

What these questions have in common is that they are answerable, objective, and divorced from context. The rules for severing a silver cord in 3.5 don't change from game to game, absent houserules. Who invented XP is an objective question about history, it doesn't depend on your DM's preferences. Etc.

These questions are at elevated risk of being bad for other reasons.

That guideline in the help center wasn't just thrown in for no reason. Hypothetical questions are much more likely to be bad subjective and/or impossible to answer well than questions about how you should handle a real situation.

In particular, I feel pretty confident that any hypothetical question about table dynamics is practically guaranteed to be a bad question. If your question has any of the following tags:

...it should absolutely be about a real problem you are actually facing in a game you are actually playing. The answers to these kinds of questions inevitably depend too much on the specifics of the table for anyone to answer them well otherwise.

This probably isn't an exhaustive list of the tags that should never have hypothetical questions. Any time the answer is going to depend on table-specific context, it's important for the asker to be able to provide information about that context.

If you want to ask a question like this, take extra care to make sure it's good.

  • Read the Good Subjective, Bad Subjective post. I know you've already read it; read it again!
  • Take a deep breath.
  • Read over your question, with an eye toward whether it's really a good fit for this site.
  • Think about what a possible answer to your question might look like, and whether it's really possible for that answer to be "correct," given only the information presented in your question.
  • Look over the tags on your question and check if any of them seem like the kind of thing where table context matters.
  • Take another deep breath.
  • If and only if you are satisfied after all of the above, post your question.
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  • \$\begingroup\$ I think there's some daylight between the not-a-real-problem questions that the meta post asks about and the ones you're discussing here. The post's asking about questions asked with the "I'm sure someone needs the answer to this" motive. But you're talking about ones asked out of curiosity/wonder that the querent actually has. The problem (IME) with the posts the OP is talking about is that when a request for clarification comes back to the author it can't be clarified because the impetus for the question doesn't come from the author, but rather from the author's belief that... \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Nov 4 '17 at 20:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ ...someone has or will have this question. If you want to know who thought up XP it may not solve a problem at your table but it is, at least, your curiosity; when clarification's needed you'll be able to provide it. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Nov 4 '17 at 20:47
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A question should be about a real problem you are familiar with

Here’s an example of a question I asked that I already knew the answer to:

Are listed gem values the buy or sell price?

Why did I ask it? Because the others I played with were unaware of the relevant rule, and were confused about how to handle the situation — and it was causing arguments at a table I was playing at.

After finding this question had never been asked here, I suggested that someone at my table ask the question here, but got no volunteers.

Since it was a real problem that actual players were having, and I was familiar with the details, I was confident I could decently represent the question. There were no concocted “what if” scenarios.

That said, it is always better for someone who is actually having a given problem to be the one to ask the question. Such a person does not have to guess whether an answer might clear up confusion.

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