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I just answered a question about resolving attack rolls when you roll a result that's within your weapon's critical threat range, but isn't a natural 20.

KRyan commented to suggest that my answer might be improved by noting that, if you roll an 18 on a d20 and still miss, you might be out of your depth.

Now:

  • KRyan is 100% correct. The advice he's providing is good advice.
  • We have pretty good reason to believe that his advice might be useful to the querent. It's noted in the question that this is a group that's "all pretty new to D&D," and there's a mention of making an attack at a -1 or -2 penalty while wielding a rapier in two hands. It seems like there's a pretty good chance that something is going wrong here:

    • Maybe the inexperienced DM is running encounters that are too hard
    • Maybe the player is making melee attacks with a character that sucks at melee attacks
    • Maybe they're doing their attack roll math wrong
  • Making a note that missing on an 18 is an exceptional outcome could help them figure out that they have a problem, and improve their game.

At the same time, the fact that the querent is apparently fighting MC Hammer at level 2 has nothing to do with their about how to resolve attack rolls.

Should answers include this kind of "By the way..." aside? If not, is there a better way to share this kind of information?


Other examples:

  • In this question, I provide details of my character build as necessary context for a question about calculating my caster level. KRyan answers the question, but also tacks on a paragraph of build advice. I don't mind - I'm a charop geek, I love build advice! But it has nothing to do with my question about caster level. (Sorry, don't mean to pick on you KRyan, I'm just scraping my post history for examples and we both post in 3.5 a lot.)
  • This answer includes an aside about an example given in the question that isn't really part of answering the core question.
  • Can't find a link to an example, but an obvious possible case: If a question includes a straightforward rules error, but the error doesn't impact the answer to the question at all, should answers address the rules error?
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Add whatever you find useful for the asker

That's my approach, at least. I'm obviously guilty of the essay answers mxyzplk mentions. From my experience, many users, especially new users and new players, often state questions that are not their problems. I think this question exemplifies it the best. The question states

Do wizards get bonus spell slots from intelligence?

If you simply answered that, "No.", and restated the rules, you probably would not solve the actual problem. (Which was that they were confusing Prepared Spells and Spell Slots, from their 3.5e/PF background)

"Okay, but then you are still adding detail that is relevant for the problem itself. I'm talking about things that are not related to that."

Okay, this other example (I am going through my own answers because it's easier to remember what the question was about and what I answered, rather than reading everything we have about 5e). I added a bunch of explanation about damage types. Gave an example of calculation, including Radiant damage, that has nothing to do with Barbarian's Rage and resistances. Even added Hunter's Mark and Sneak Attack.

The community seems to accept both types (direct and essays) equally. From my experience with my own answers, though, essays get accepted more frequently. This indicates, to me, that they are being more helpful for the asker, which usually is my main goal, while helping the rest of the community is secondary.

In your question, you state many reasons why you think that advice would be useful for the asker. I would say add it to the answer.

TL;DR: If it helps, add it. By the way, if it gets too long, adding a TL;DR that directly answers the question is useful.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I might have made it too personal for meta, hope it's not a problem. \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint Jun 12 '18 at 8:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ An answer based on directly experienced results? No, that’s great, not too personal. :) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jun 12 '18 at 15:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ If it's helpful, the phrase I've used to describe the site is Coffee house not courthouse. Imagine—instead of being called to the stand to provide expert testimony—that a dude at an indie coffee house shared his problem with everyone, and you decided to help. (To be fair, it is a pretty weird indie coffee house.) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jun 12 '18 at 18:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ "...many users, specially new users and new players, often state questions that are not their problems." This. Which is why I almost never bother to post an answer unless there's a distinction between the question and the actual problem for me to clarify (which is probably why we've been answering a lot of the same questions). As a teacher, adding the information they need after the information they want seems to me to be the exact way to handle the situation. \$\endgroup\$ – Bloodcinder Jun 13 '18 at 3:54
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I am a big fan of value-add. Probably more so than just about anyone else here, and definitely to a point beyond which some users find it helpful.

You don’t have to be. You can ignore my suggestion, or even flag it as No Longer Needed if you aren’t going to act on it. It’s your answer, and that’s totally up to you. I would add it, but as stated, I’m a big fan of value-add. If you feel like it’s too tangential or prefer really direct and concise answers, that’s completely valid.

Ultimately, the Stack serves as the best resource when many types of answers are available. It gives people more options for voting, accepting, and reading, so that people are more likely to find an approach to answering the question that works well for them. And the voting mechanisms on the Stack automatically promote those that perform their chosen approach well, and dismiss those that really are either too brief or too large, where the community at large feels an answer really does need more, or that an answer really does need to stick more to the point.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ You, specifically, have a great format with a terse, cited answer up top, and commentary below. IMHO that is the optimum format: clear answer front and center, and enough context to make that answer usable and useful below. \$\endgroup\$ – fectin - free Monica Jun 24 '18 at 18:36
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It's up to you

Some people prefer answers that are to the point and answer the question. This can run the risk of being too brief, as sometimes querents are unclear in a blast radius around their actual question.

Others prefer to pen long essays on every thought they have tangentially related to the topic. This can run the risk of burying the actual thing the querent needs to know, confusing them with a bunch of random facts (especially if they're kinda confused to begin with), and can annoy other readers.

I prefer to answer the question with only mild "additional facts." I've gotten similar comment-suggestions to the one you note, and sometimes I do it and sometimes I delete as "no thanks, won't do." All approaches are valuable - some querents want and need a crisp answer and others want to noodle over all the ramifications. Sometimes you can tell from their question which it is. Otherwise, it's fine for them to have different kinds of answers to pull from.

I'll be honest, I have rage-downvoted answers that I consider to be too much 'value add' for no good reason than to make the poster feel smart... Just as many of us downvote too-curt one-liner answers. Keep to your natural inclination and keep it out of the extremes, and you'll be fine.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Agreed. I think it's important for the answer to, you know, clearly answer the question - usually it helps if there's a header that basically gives a tl;dr. Overly rambling answers can come off as unfocused or it might be hard to find where in the comment the answer is stated; overly curt answers are also unhelpful and usually don't support the answer with rules citations or quotes. A balance is good to have. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jun 12 '18 at 6:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ The worst is when an answer is rambly and lacks any kind of signposting/formatting to split everything up. Drives me up a wall. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Jun 12 '18 at 13:49

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