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I asked a question about a subclass feature from an Unearthed Arcana article. I know that Unearthed Arcana stuff is playtest material and therefore might not be balanced. That’s why I wanted to clarify it.

In my question I described the problematic situation as it happened in my game, which involved a homebrew magic item. This homebrew magic item itself is not the focus of the question, it’s just related to it. I didn’t mention that there is a homebrew magic item involved, because the problematic situation could also come up with a similar, official magic item.

Another reason why I avoided to mention that I use homebrew stuff is, because it seems to me, that a lot of answers to homebrew-related questions are of lower quality compared to the rest. Plus, answers to such questions tend to be in the vein of “Oh, you use homebrew and now you have a problem? That’s your fault, stupid, we can’t help you with that”.

The people commenting on my question seem to insist on me mentioning that homebrew stuff is involved. I disagree, mainly because a situation like the one that lead to my question could also come up in a game that’s 100% official.

The next time I ask a question about the goings-on in my game, would it be better to come up with a fictional scenario that only involved official stuff, rather than describing what actually happened? That seems stupid to me, but I would probably do it, if I can avoid (unnecessary) discussions in the comments about whether something is homebrew or not.

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I've cleaned up the comments on your question.

The benefit of mentioning the ring is homebrew is that, if you don't, people will respond going "wait, there's a ring that lets me do that!?" and go looking for it, both out of curiousity and because it may materially relate to your situation. You mentioned you weren't sure if you were applying the rules correctly — well, what if there was something in that ring's rules that you had also missed? It's worth mentioning it's homebrew to take that factor out of the equation. If you didn't mention that, you'd get people asking what ring let you do that, for the above reasons. I recommend leaving that mention in, but if you have trouble as a result of it, please flag for moderator attention if you'd like.

The next time I ask a question about the goings-on in my game, would it be better to come up with a fictional scenario that only involved official stuff, rather than describing what actually happend? That seems stupid to me, but I would probably do it, if I can avoid (unnecessary) discussions in the comments about whether something is homebrew or not.

Stack exchange works best when we ask “practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face” (from here). Usually that means describing your situation using its actual details and asking us to resolve it.

Describing theoretical situations can work. If you can come up with a simple situation to distill your issue, separated from any extraneous details, you can ask about that. That's how a lot of our rules interactions questions get written. That relies on your situation being simple though.

When it's more complex, like this one where you're running into a complex gameplay situation, doing that doesn't work so well. People may ask for extra details like party composition or how you're running encounters, the question will get closed as unclear because those details look that important to voters that we can't proceed without them, but you won't be able to answer because the situations totally theoretical and those details don't exist. When providing clarifications has come down to "well I made this up so let me make up extra stuff" in the past, it hasn't gone well and has been a mess. Describe your actual situation.

Plus, answers to such questions tend to be in the vein of “Oh, you use homebrew and now you have a problem? That’s your fault, stupid, we can’t help you with that”.

I'm going to be keeping an eye out on that. Thanks for bringing this up. We embrace a plurality of playstyles here (Can we affirm that RPG.SE embraces a plurality of playstyles?) and should be fine with people using homebrew. D&D homewbrew can be difficult to create and is often a source of the problems being asked about, however we shouldn't be coming across as berating them for daring to try. If you see stuff like this, please flag it for moderator attention. Use the "in need of moderator intervention" flag and point us to where it's happening in the post.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ My take on fictional vs actual scenario would have been the contrary... Encourage a "generic" scenario that still is useful to you but that's also useful for any random player with a similar problem. Good to know it's the other way around though. \$\endgroup\$ – Helwar Apr 23 '18 at 10:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Helwar That can work fine. Sometimes a person gives their game's life story in their question that goes on for ten paragraphs, but all they're really asking is if a specific class feature can let an ordinary sword deal damage to a ghost or something. In that case we cut it down to just asking about that interaction on a basis of keeping a high signal:noise ratio. More complex party interaction stuff with a character and their familiar and 2 items and spells and etc — best to give us those details rather than figure out a generic equivalent and hope they get a corresponding solution. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Apr 23 '18 at 10:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ I know exactly how this particular ring works, because I made it up myself. Therefore, I knew that the problem wasn't the ring and I wanted to draw as little attention to the ring as possible. It seems that I achieved the exact opposite by omitting the fact that it is a homebrew item. I will keep this in mind the next time I ask a question. Thanks for your answer and for deleting all the unnecessary comments, including mine. \$\endgroup\$ – hohenheim Apr 23 '18 at 11:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Helwar Just to be clear, this user is of the opinion that no attempt should be made to force a question to be more widely applicable by making it more generic. The site wants to answer your real and specific question. Let answers figure out how to expand—and if to expand—the question's mandate. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Apr 23 '18 at 11:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan I agree as well. Our site really does work best, and avoids bumps and stress and so on, when people just focus on their actual problem. We get our best answers out of specialised questions, and often genericising a question just means answers can't actually properly dig into the important details that would create a useful answer for a broad audience. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Apr 23 '18 at 11:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ For what it is worth I have noticed the trend towards “Oh, you use homebrew and now you have a problem? That’s your fault, stupid, we can’t help you with that” as well. \$\endgroup\$ – SeriousBri Apr 23 '18 at 13:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ Certainly, said in that tone and wording, it is unacceptable by site standards and will likely get deleted. I haven't seen the trend you seem to have noticed but then I mostly lurk around [dnd-5e] and not much else. \$\endgroup\$ – daze413 Apr 23 '18 at 14:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SeriousBri Alert moderators to comments and answers that you perceive as taking that attitude; that's just wrong, and the site can totally help with homebrew material. There's a homebrew tag for a reason, and D&D itself was homebrew once. Heck, 5e is releasing material that's totally unplaytested; isn't that just code for homebrew material created by the game's designers? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Apr 23 '18 at 21:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan to be fair, "homebrew created by the games designers" is pretty unlikely to have some of the most egregious problems with homebrew: overpowered, underpowered, doesn't scale with level when it should, etc. \$\endgroup\$ – Martin Bonner Apr 27 '18 at 11:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MartinBonner D&D 3.5e is my jam, and it wasn't playtested past, like, level 6 and suffers exactly those problems. So, in my experience, game designers that don't playtest their material really are as prone to design missteps as homebrewers. ;-) Of course, your experiences may be different. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Apr 27 '18 at 11:33
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I am one of the users who advocates that you should mention that your PC is using a homebrew magic item. But first, let me preface my answer that this:

"Oh, you use homebrew and now you have a problem? That’s your fault, stupid, we can’t help you with that"

is unacceptable in this site. We have a strict Be Nice policy around here (RPG is one of the most strict SEs when it comes to enforcing this), and this is a safe environment to be open about your playstyle preferences.


So here's why I "strongly suggested" you mention that your player was using a homebrew ring.

In that specific question, you were asking about how different mechanics interact with each other, if said interactions were legal, and how you could solve it in-game. Then you presented three game elements that the player was using (the raven-familiar, the ring, and the wand). As an answerer, I will be looking at all three of these features, along with existing rules, to see how they interact and maybe spot something you missed, if any. And if those features cannot be found anywhere, we're going to ask about where you are getting those from.

Questions also need to be sufficiently sourced, not just the answers. A question about an unknown item or class feature cannot be evaluated, it would be closed as "Unclear what you're asking".

For that specific question, it was sufficient to say that both the ring and the wand were homebrew, that you made them yourself, and that there was nothing about your homebrew that made the interaction illegal (this part is important! I've seen people insist that askers post the homebrew verbatim, and that is because it isn't explicitly stated that the homebrew wasn't the problem. Make it a point that that is not the case, here. This also tells potential answerers that this homebrew should not be "touched" in the answer, and that if anything was wrong, it's the UA content. That was a long side note, sorry.), with those, you don't need to go into the details of your homebrew, your homebrew cannot be the source of the problem- it's not like rings that enable the wearer to cast spells is unheard of. That would leave answerers one feature to look into, the raven.


Let's play 'what if'

What if there was nothing you missed and the warlock could freely use the raven as they were and that the class feature or homebrew was the problem? If you had gated the information as you proposed, we'd never know that, and couldn't give you a sufficient answer on how to approach the player about nerfing either the class feature or the homebrew.

That is why you should always try to be as specific and as close to the actual problem as possible; we want to help you solve your problem, whether it's something in the interaction of the rules you missed, or whether it's pointing out a weird interaction that is breaking the game, or if it's approaching a player about nerfing the feature, homebrew or both; we're here to help.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd be shocked out of my mind if someone actually called him stupid. This underscores my complaint that moderation by people who are concrete reasoners vs those who are abstract reasoners creates lot of tension on SE, in general. It's probably the #1 reason I see questions on hold, because the questioner used abstract thought process in posting, but the people who put the question on hold are concrete in their reasoning, and can't get beyond the depth of something that was worded just out of their reach. It's painful to watch. \$\endgroup\$ – user9570789 Apr 25 '18 at 20:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ @user9570789 As an abstract reasoner myself, I fully endorse RPG.se’s operational focus on concrete reasoning. Questions have to be concrete to be fully and widely understandable, and concretely answered. Even when this makes it hard for me to phrase questions, I appreciate that it expects me to bring out everything from inside my head and formulate it so people don’t need to make reasoning leaps to understand me. And it’s good exercise for how to write to be understood. :) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Apr 27 '18 at 17:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie Hrm...I'm not actually arguing that SE should have less concrete reasoning. I'm stating what I think is an obvious problem. I have not stated a solution. In my mind, the solution is how you get from abstract to concrete without embarrassing/upsetting people. How can the SE community better guide (especially new) users without coming off as elitist douche-hats? Unless, of course, that's what you're going for here. In which case, there's absolutely nothing to fix. \$\endgroup\$ – user9570789 Apr 30 '18 at 20:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @user9570789 Your last sentence reminded me of something that's not obvious. There's a foundational document that might be useful to read for context: Optimizing For Pearls, Not Sand (Stack Overflow Blog). After reading that, what are your thoughts? \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Apr 30 '18 at 21:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie This is an interesting comment from that post: "If we don’t do our part to cull the bad questions, then we risk alienating the true experts who provide what really matters: the answers!" I was following well enough up to this statement. SSD, I'm a recognized industry expert in my field. 5 years after leaving my last company, I still have old customers hunting down my cell number to ask questions. I have written dozens of whitepapers and given talks to groups of 80+ people. NEVER have I felt alienated by a poor question. Not once. \$\endgroup\$ – user9570789 May 1 '18 at 19:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ So, upon further reading, I totally get the disconnect with SE. The focus is upon honing the questions, whereas it should be upon honing the answers. The majority of force applied by the community/moderators should be in pruning answers, while some effort should be expended to improve peoples' ability to ask good questions. As a highly technical expert, let me tell you that you can save us both a lot of time and hassle if you can learn to report problems to me "in the best possible way". That's totally true. And yet, the support I give you might still completely suck. \$\endgroup\$ – user9570789 May 1 '18 at 19:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ That description is a reversal of the mechanics in use here. Questions are honed, but answers compete. Competition pressure ensures good answers, and voting buries the bad ones and lifts the good ones. Meanwhile, that pressure is inoperable for questions, so instead the pressure is to be clear, on-topic, specific, and answerable. Failing any of those, hold/close has a dual purpose: applies pressure to improve the Q, and if not, it stays off the answering market. (I didn’t design any of this; it’s just a description of the existing design.) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie May 1 '18 at 22:45

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