I have noticed that people want to give answers and leave comments that the question is not asking for. This question, for example, has people immediately saying "don't" instead of just answering the question. Why? Why do people try to say "don't" or similar things instead of simply providing an answer to the question that was asked? Why does there need to be discouragement for certain courses of action just because it might not be a course of action other individuals might agree with?

After receiving certain answers about this being a sort of database for everybody instead of just the asker: what use is an archive if it is filled only with variations of the same answer?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Highly related: How do we handle a desire to challenge the frame of a question? \$\endgroup\$
    – Miniman
    Jan 9, 2018 at 9:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ Question: Should I shoot myself in the arm or leg? Answer: Which do you use less? Expert Answer: Don't shoot yourself. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 9, 2018 at 14:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ Just a note: the question you linked ends with "Or am I overreacting and should let him play?" making the bulk of the answers exactly what the OP asked for (in addition to being the answers they needed, as judged by acceptance flag and further argued in my answer below). \$\endgroup\$
    – kviiri
    Jan 10, 2018 at 8:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think the add-on question would probably get better visibility, consideration, and discussion if posed on its own. And its a fair one--it'd be good to hear the community's thoughts on "what are we losing vs. gaining when we write for an audience of one vs. many?" \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60 Mod
    Jan 10, 2018 at 12:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ Edited to remove the "Edit" flag, which a thing we don't do here that a lot of us do on discussion forums . The edit history is always available to track edits. I agree with @nitsua60's suggestion to make that a separate question. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 10, 2018 at 19:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ If you don't like the answers you're getting here feel free and write your own answer and see what the community thinks, but there's no value in just comment-arguing with every answer that provides an alternate viewpoint. That's what voting is for. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Jan 10, 2018 at 21:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk The value in comment discussion is that it already tells me what the community that is reading and replying thinks. There is no need to add an answer. The people that agree with me that are too scared to speak up are not going to vote or reply. Adding my own answer will not accomplish anything. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 11, 2018 at 5:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ RE: "The people that agree with me that are too scared to speak up are not going to vote or reply." Seriously, why do you think these users who agree with you are scared to answer, comment, or vote? \$\endgroup\$ Jan 11, 2018 at 12:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ If one disagrees with many of the answers provided here I hope they'll post a differing opinion. I've got to believe that if there are community members who disagree but don't feel they want to speak up--a reasonable position to be in--they still might voice themselves by voting up a post that they found consonant with their feelings. And I really do think a "marketplace of ideas" model for meta serves the site and the community best. \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60 Mod
    Jan 11, 2018 at 15:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan there are tens of thousnads of regustered users, thousands of regular visitors, hundreds of at-least-daily visitors, and around a dozen people have voiced themselves in this discussion. I don't find it too hard to imagine that there could be some with an opinion that they have neither seen voiced here nor voiced themselves. \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60 Mod
    Jan 11, 2018 at 15:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60 O, I totally agree that other unvoiced opinions undoubtedly exist. However, I'm more interested in why those folks who haven't voiced their opinions must be scared to! \$\endgroup\$ Jan 11, 2018 at 15:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ There are some big personalities around here, even through the fairly-sterile medium of text. You've got a pretty big number next to your name, after all! Seriously, though, I'm a high-rep user who got lotsa votes-enough that there's a diamond next to my name and before posting that last comment I was second-guessing myself: "I don't really know Chan, we've never really interacted, are they going to think I'm criticizing them, &c. &c. &c." Put another way: I know I've got kids in class every day who are literally terrified that the spotlight's going to turn their way. And sometimes they... \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60 Mod
    Jan 11, 2018 at 15:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ ...muster a lot of courage and raise their hands anyway. When I think of a low-activity user jumping into a meta like this I think of that kid, but now imagine they're in a classroom where the teacher and the cool kids and the one they've got a crush on literally don't know they're in the room. They can raise their hand or not, and if they don't no-one will even know they were ever there. (Or maybe I'm just projecting my workplace and my anxieties onto everyone else!?) \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60 Mod
    Jan 11, 2018 at 15:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60 O, that's certainly a thing—seriously, I've done time in front of a classroom myself—, but ascribing that same classroom-of-dread attitude to all the voiceless masses of the Internet seems an overreach. That is, in my experience, Meta is far safer and much more open to minority opinions than the main site if only because the risk of rep loss is nil. (And, look, I interacted with nitsua60! Now am I finally and officially a cool kid?) \$\endgroup\$ Jan 11, 2018 at 16:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60 i think i'm going chime in here and say that i was one of those kids in school. i was the only emo/goth kid in my entire high school, its a small town, and the worst part is that i never actually tried to be. its just my personality and how i turned out. i've always been out of place no matter where i am or who i'm with. i didn't speak in class or work in groups due to overwhelming fear of mass rejection and ridicule. even sitting here and answering or asking questions my heart is pounding and i'm wondering if its a good idea to say anything and probably face the same reaction. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 11, 2018 at 21:59

4 Answers 4


It's called a frame challenge

And it's often the answer the querent needs, even if it isn't the one they asked for.

A common issue with people, especially those new to a hobby or a craft, is that they don't really know what the problem they're encountering is in nature. This can cause them to confuse problems they're having with the problems of the solution they're trying. We call this the XY problem.

XY problems are common on many fields. In computing, they often involve novice programmers struggling to implement a function for a task, where one already exists in the standard library. In strategy gaming, it could be trying to solve a recurring hopeless position to one's advantage instead of trying to not get into that position in the first place...

...and in RPGs, it often revolves around GMs or other players trying to solve their around-the-table problems through in-game scheming, retaliation or other such action, while the actual problem is conflicting game expectations around the table.

RPG culture does have some remnants of the occasionally very antagonistic around-the-table attitudes more common in the past decades. Therefore, it's an understandable mistake for a newcomer to assume that the way to solve problems is to be a jerk in-character (or to be a jerk GM) - this is why we reserve the right to give them a better solution to consider.

That being said, it is always the answerer's choice on whether to answer a question with a frame challenge or with a straightforward answer to the presented question - or even something in between ("you shouldn't do it because of X, but if you choose to, here's how you make it work with minimal harm..."). Therefore, if you find a frame challenge you disagree with, you can post a straight answer to compete. Suggesting courses of action widely considered detrimental are still likely to earn you downvotes, so be prepared to argue well for any answer you make, frame challenge or otherwise.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Meta is somewhat discussiony, but that has gone well over the line to long argument. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Jan 10, 2018 at 21:43

"You gotta get this to get us...."

Linked there ^^ is, in my opinion, a super-important bit of Stack philosophy. Take a moment to read it.


it's not just about the one asker, or the four voters, but rather the fifteen thousand searchers with the same problem.

This is a large part of why allowing frame challenges is not only acceptable, but a good idea. Frankly, we're not just trying to answer querent's question. Sure, any individual answer-author might be, but the big "we," the collective knowledge-base that emerges from all of the editing and voting and commenting and hashing out practices in metas and arguing and, and, and... we're trying to create a well-sorted database of expertise.

Some time ago there was a question I'll paraphrase as "I was playing with some friends and got totally hosed by the GM and some other players. It really sucked, and I was really hurt by it. But I'm the GM for the next series of adventures, and I'm totally going to long-form double-screw them back. What's the best way?"

Many answers came in saying "don't do it, man. Here's why I say that...." And those answers got lots of upvotes.

The original querent may not agree. They may not have liked the answers, they may not have agreed, they may, for all I know, have vowed to long-form double-screw us if ever they're sitting at the same table.

But we're creating a well-sorted database of expertise. And now that database has a clear message in it: "we think holding onto your anger for years and trying to spin it out in this manner is a poor idea."

You seem to think it disrespectful not to answer the question as presented on its face. That's fine--you don't need to agree with the current stance RPGSE takes on frame challenges. You can

  • vote down answers that challenge frames
  • vote down answers on the meta that affirm the reasonableness of challenging frames
  • write your own answer(s) on meta that argue for why the larger site would end up providing a better resource if we discouraged frame challenges
  • and probably a dozen other things I'm not creative enough to think of.

But as to your titular question, "why do people want to give [those] answers?" Because they think they're the best answers.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenofNine it certainly seems that the philosophy this answer espouses lies at a different point on the individual-collective spectrum than this question would indicate you'd like best. I'm simply pointing out that it's a philosophy central to how the stack functions, per their own statement. (The linked post.) If you find it faulty then that probably deserves its own, dedicated, meta discussion. \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60 Mod
    Jan 10, 2018 at 5:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ On the other hand, if it's not "people" refraining from contributing because of perceived hostility to non-majority viewpoint but rather it's "I'm dissuaded from contributing because XYZ," then I think it's helpful for the site when users are willing to come forward to say "I think this is broken, and here's the experience I've had that makes me think that way." It may be that something's broken, it may be that something's not communicated well, it may be that a stance should change. It may be that it takes a hundred such experiences reported for anyone to notice, I don't know. \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60 Mod
    Jan 10, 2018 at 5:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation discussing "latent hostility" has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 23, 2018 at 21:16

Because we're not robots

The entire mission of RPG Stack Exchange is to solve problems, not to robotically answer every question as if it's superficial and simple. It does that by programmatically harnessing human intelligence and discernment. Because we're human, we make human judgements about how to best solve someone's problem.

That the answers are written by, and scored by, intelligent humans with discernment and judgment to see beyond the words and into the heart of the problem is the entire value proposition that RPG.se offers. It's why the site exists at all.

Usually you're right and the problem is actually what the question asks. Sometimes the problem is well-described and yet obviously not what the asker thinks the problem is. Sometimes it's in between. You'll find questions all over the spectrum here. You'll see answers that say “don't do that” which are heavily punished by the other thinking humans, and then other answers that say “don't do that” which are heavily supported by the voting humans.

This is RPG.se function as designed, harnessing the heuristic processing power of many humans minds to ensure that questions get the answers their text is really asking for, rather than the answer that the question-writer wishes for.


This is in response to your added question about the value of a Stack with repeated answers, and your concern about us or yourself just getting answers to everything of “don't do that”.

We don't actually want answers that just say “don't do that”. They're low quality. You'll be right to call those out if we get them. They don't provide actionable solutions to real problems. They're along the lines of saying “the GM should figure it out” or “it's an imagination game, just make something up.” Such answers should be downvoted, helped to improve, and/or flagged for moderator inspection and probable removal.

And of course, any answer which belittles the querent or otherwise violates our Be Nice guidelines is inappropriate, regardless of its answer-ish-ness. We're also not interested in “you're playing the game wrong”-type answers since we embrace a plurality of playstyles, and sometimes an answer that only says “don't do that thing” is falling into this unwelcome area.

The frame challenge guidelines don't make any of that go away. They're an extrapolation from the general advice in our help pages that say:

What, specifically, is the question asking for? Make sure your answer provides that – or a viable alternative. The answer can be “don’t do that”, but it should also include “try this instead”. [...] Brevity is acceptable, but fuller explanations are better.

These guidelines specifically demand that every "Don't do that" needs an accompanying "do this instead," preferably with an explanation of why the frame challenge is necessary. It's the "do this instead" that adds new, useful content to the Stack and makes a frame challenge a Stack-compatible answer like any other. Kviiri mentioned the XY problem in their answer: if we determine someone has a deeper problem, and we want to refuse the question they asked in an attempt to solve that deeper problem, we actually have to provide a solution to the situation.

To the original question you brought up:

This question, for example, has people immediately saying "don't" instead of just answering the question. Why? Why do people try to say "don't" or similar things instead of simply providing an answer to the question that was asked? Why does there need to be discouragement for certain courses of action just because it might not be a course of action other individuals might agree with?

Kviiri's also pointed out accurately in comments that the querent was looking for general guidance in how to handle this situation. Here's what they asked us:

My question is, as a new and hopefully long-lasting DM, how do I kill off a character? Do I make it fair? Is it better to instill the idea of hopelessness? Or am I overreacting and should let him play?

The whole “let them just have their character, and adjust the plot to fit them into it” is pretty reasonable along the lines of “you're overreacting, let him play”. The answers are also telling the DM not to kill the character off, but they're not just stopping at “don't do that” — they're going into depth on explaining how to resolve the problem sitting at the heart of that question: “there is a character who doesn't fit my plot, and I don't know what to do about it.”

So: we're not going to wind up as a database of answers that just say “don't do that thing” without providing actionable solutions. If we are getting those answers, please raise those to our attention. If you are encountering people largely trying to tell people their playstyle choices are wrong, please bring it to our attention (and bear in mind there's a difference between “that playstyle is wrong because I disagree” and “don't do that because it will get people genuinely hurt, and you appear to not be aware of this”).

You mentioned in comments you had a campaign with lots of player vs player activity. If you happen to be in that situation again, and want assistance handling something in that situation, we're not going to give you answers of “stop doing that” which decline to further attempt to solve the problems you're experiencing, and if you do get those, I'll hope for people to be raising it to our attention.

That said: if you want to attempt to change our meta policies around frame challenges, the correct approach is to visit our meta post for that policy — How do we handle a desire to challenge the frame of a question? — and write your own answer to that question so we can see and understand your proposal for policy on this issue. We can make only loose inferences about your own perspective through the questions you're asking and the issues you've raised in comments, but can't understand your full stance from them. We get you strongly disagree with something in how we're handling things, but responding in comments about how you disagree isn't going to create policy change on its own.

I can't promise your proposal will be received well, and I'm concerned there's something you're missing in our quality requirements around these answers. I'm also concerned about the broad generalisations you've made, which aren't backed up by evidence or may even be contrary to evidence (our body of player-vs-player conflict questions is not full of “don't do that” answers). We deal best in resolving real problems that demonstrably exist, which means generalisations should also correlate with substantial evidence. For an example of a question that successfully demonstrated a generalised problem and resulted in concrete change to our practices, see: The gremlin in our answers: "Fate is narrative" answers to mechanical Fate questions, which brought up a problematic answering pattern in our Fate questions which was corroborated by substantial evidence to show us (a) that the problem was real, and (b) what the problem was like in practice.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @Seven of Nine I vigorously agree with doppelgreener's recommendation to you to write your own answer to that question — How do we handle a desire to challenge the frame of a question? If you think there's a problem, it is better to see your solution (in a more fleshed out form) rather than your recommendation to "don't do that" which has come across so far. Please take this as sincere encouragement to write that answer. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 10, 2018 at 17:04

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