For the first time in two years of being a member of RPG.SE I feel the way my question was put on hold was unfair. It's about this one: Are there examples of priests/clerics having water creation abilities that predate D&D?

I might sound biased, but I think such "trivia" questions actually can be useful. Answers to these "Where did feature X came from" questions help players to get inspiration from history and/or pop culture and find ways to role-play their characters.

My English is not very good, but I was hoping the community would be fine about poor wording. Indeed, there were people who actually helped me to polish and narrow the question down. But then the problems started.

I might be wrong, but I saw a few people started to play this "find a weak spot and close the question" game. For instance, one person edited the question's title AND voted to close as "too broad".

For me, if you think the question is too broad, it is fair either edit the question to narrow it down, or vote to close it. When you edit the question (under the pretense of making it "accurately reflect what you want") and then close it because now it is clearly "too broad" in its current state — that doesn't seem right. I didn't want my question to be closed. I wanted it to be improved and salvaged.

Another argument was:

The high vote rating on this answer is itself evidence that this question should be closed. It’s a bad answer being heavily upvoted: people like the guess and don’t care that it’s just a guess, which means the voting system is breaking down

So, 43 upvoters who think this answer was useful are wrong, because one person says that it was a bad answer (and this person is right for unknown reason), that also means that "the voting system is breaking down", and this is also an evidence that the question itself should be closed. For me, this logic is at least strange.

What can I do, are there ways to salvage the question?

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    \$\begingroup\$ We can’t help with feeling offended — that is an issue far outside our ability to investigate or manage. It’s also likely to invite flame and conflict. I’ve put this on hold temporarily. Perhaps taking some time to revise (professional communication writers indicate effective reviewing and revising takes 3× as long as the first write) will result in a question more likely to have an outcome useful to you? \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jul 16 '18 at 17:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ Most of this is workable though, it's a fair invitation to how to salvage the question and we need to have that discussion here. I've revised the title. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jul 16 '18 at 18:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ The reason I locked the original question was because the comments were out of hand, heated, and unproductive. Right now there’s very little “what can be done here” and a lot of things that invite argument. (Even I was tempted to launch into a rant about what titles are for — and I agree that the question was poorly handled.) This needs to be revised to remove the dry kindling before anyone else involved brings their own strong feelings and lights up the sky. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jul 16 '18 at 18:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for keeping an eye on it, @SevenSidedDie \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Jul 16 '18 at 18:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ Fwiw, I was the one who edited your title and I did that so that your body and your title matched. I basically reworded your last sentence (the core of your question) and formed it into the title. The previous title was causing lots of argument over whether you wanted to determine a concrete origin for the spell or just examples of it. I thought it would help to have a congruent title and body. I was not trying to poke holes in your question, but I did not feel that the change that I made corrected the issues I saw with it. I do apologize if the change was no according to intent though. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Jul 16 '18 at 18:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm still unsure what exactly you are asking. Are you literally just asking for examples of historical/mythological incidences of priests/clerics creating water? Because that is a list question almost certainly too broad. \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Jul 16 '18 at 18:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Rubiksmoose as I said, I might be wrong. I don't hold a grudge, I just didn't like the way how that discussion turned out. \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Jul 16 '18 at 18:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DavidCoffron I was asking if there was a similar fantasy trope that predate D&D. It could be historical/mythological incident, if it is well-known enough to get into the pop culture. I was not asking for a complete list of all incidents (apparently, there are not too many of them). I just wanted to know, is it a original D&D invention, or there were similar tropes in the past. \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Jul 16 '18 at 18:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ @enkryptor: But you are not interested in having people show that those tropes actually inspired the spell (currently). Is that correct? \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Jul 16 '18 at 18:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Rubiksmoose it is optional. I thought about three different answers possible — 1. "no, there were no precedents, it is original D&D invention", 2. "there were precedents, for example ....", 3. "there was a precedent — <description>. It inspired the Create Water spell, according to... <word of god here>" \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Jul 16 '18 at 18:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ I can't believe that people are seriously arguing that questions the logic and inspiration behind class features don't belong here. \$\endgroup\$ – Barret Jul 26 '18 at 20:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ I believe my question is related. It appears that at least some mods believe any questions with the format "are there any X that are Y" are basically shopping questions, and share their problems. \$\endgroup\$ – Isaac Reefman Jul 30 '18 at 5:47

Your question needs a metric for a "good" answer

The stack format revolves around deciding whether or not a question is "good" in order that a "best" answer can be determined by you and the community.

As is, there are too many "good" answers (far too many to count) as each example could be it's own answer. Also, the "best" answer (one that incorporates all examples in fiction) is likely far too long to be expressed.

I think Too Broad suits the question in its current form. If you find a way to narrow scope either by providing criteria for answerers or limiting the listing to a lesser scale than all of literature, it would be much better for the stack.

Ask on other stacks

You may also want to consider asking a question or something similar on Literature Stack Exchange or Mythology Stack Exchange if you can more easily make it fit their criteria for a good question. Make sure those stacks will accept this question first, though. I'm unfamiliar with the rules of those stacks myself, and you may have to adjust the question in some way

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks. Unfortunately, I still feel like I have to downvote here—this is well-written, well-considered, and all-in-all a pretty good answer, so I’d never downvote an answer like this on the main site, but this is meta, where votes work a little differently, and I just don’t agree. I don’t think this question is merely an example of a good answer away from being workable, or that it might be appropriate to another Stack. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jul 16 '18 at 19:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan of course. You make a compelling argument in your answer. I'm curious how this discussion wills out \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Jul 16 '18 at 19:19

I'm not sure I have an ~answer~ for you, but I'd like to address a number of the things in this post, in reverse order. (By way of complete disclosure, I'm an author of a self-deleted answer on that question.)

We should also note that there was a lot going on with the post in the last day. Edits, comments, answers coming and going, responses to comments, upvotes and downvotes, and now a meta and a content-dispute lock. It behooves readers to sort through as much of that on their own as they can before reading my interpretation of things. And I hope it wasn't too disorienting for you and apologize to the extent that I compounded any of that.

So, 43 upvoters who think this answer was useful are wrong, because one person says that it was a bad answer (and this person is right for unknown reason), that also means that "the voting system is breaking down", and this is also an evidence that the question itself should be closed. For me, this logic is at least strange.

There is some strange logic here, but I think it's strange in the Stack-sense, not that the commenter in question is guilty of acting unreasonably. First off, the commenter was not the only person saying that it was a bad answer, there are other downvotes and a number of high-rep commenters (including me, disclosure again) had mentioned the paucity of evidence the accepted answer used in presenting how they know that biblical account has any bearing on the spell in question.

Now we get to a sticky bit: for some part of the question's history it boiled down to "why/how did this spell/concept of clerics creating water come into D&D" but for some other part (including now) it boils down to "what are some examples of magic creating water?" I'm going to call those questions A and B, respectively, because that reflects the order I saw them in.

Question A: why/how did this spell/concept of clerics creating water come into D&D? The upvoted-accepted answer is a bad answer to question A because the answer in no way describes how one could know that an early D&D author had the quoted passage in mind when making up the clerical spell list. Since there's no support for the (implied) answer "they were thinking about Moses drawing water from a stone" it should be downvoted. I'd considered putting a post notice asking for support, but since I was (briefly) another answer-author to question A I recused myself.

This, then, is the evidence that the voting system is breaking down: a question hit the HNQ, got a(n objectively) bad answer, but is getting lots of upvotes.

And that implicates the bit of logic that may seem strange: their comment about answers being evidence of the question's quality. This is a point that many people (including me, years ago) find strange: answers can tell us what's actually in the question.

Often when questions are near a boundary of topicality it's hard to see whether they are clearly on- or off-topic. (And designer intent questions--close to question A but not quite the same--have recently been discussed a few times in this light.) In those cases many people will sit back and let the answers help guide one's evaluation of the question. This seems strange, asinine, even wrong-headed to some people. But the value in it is that any question can reasonably be read many ways by different readers; answers can help one appreciate what is actually in a question beyond that subset one read themself.

Question B: what are some examples of magic creating water? The upvoted answer is a fine answer to question B, but the question is bad: it's a . (Note that "list question" is a bit of a term of art in Stack-world. Not all questions whose answers are lists are "list questions," and one should read further in the meta tag for some discussion. Are list/collection questions on topic? from the is a good place to start.)

For me, if you think the question is too broad, it is fair either edit the question to narrow it down, or vote to close it. When you edit the question (under the pretense of making it "accurately reflect what you want") and then close it because now it is clearly "too broad" in its current state — that doesn't seem right. I didn't want my question to be closed. I wanted it to be improved and salvaged.

These are not mutually exclusive actions, nor should they be. The charitable interpretation is that one user saw (a) a title that didn't seem to reflect well the content of a post and (b) a question that should be closed. They acted to address both of those things. Based on their comments on your question, on my interactions with them in chat over the last year, and on observations of their activity around the site I, personally, have no reason to doubt they are acting in good faith rather than "play[ing] this 'find a weak spot and close the question' game." See also Should we be answering the question, or the question posed in the description?

I think such "trivia" questions actually can be useful. Answers to these "Where did feature X came from" questions help players to get inspiration from history and/or pop culture and find ways to role-play their characters.


What can I do, are there ways to salvage the question?

I agree that trivia questions are great for world- and adventure-building and roleplaying inspiration. They're sometimes great Stack questions. (Sooooo many of our questions are utter trivialities!) But "what magical water-creating predated D&D" is just as broad as "what would be some interesting enemies for my level 1 party?"

Lastly, I'll say that I think "salvage the question" isn't a goal one should pursue. Your first stab at this didn't go well and that's fine. If you want to post anew "where did the D&D idea of clerics creating water come from" I think that'd be fine. (Note that this is not a unanimous opinion; see Kryan's comment on his answer for an opposing and reasonable viewpoint.) It may get a good answer along the lines HeyICanChan described, or it may draw dreck and we have to moderate those answers. But that's not your fault.


“Do any precedents exist?” is Off-Topic and Too Broad

If the question is “were there any examples of priests producing water in religious, mythological, or fantasy literature prior to 1974 [the original publication of D&D]?” then the question has no business on the RPG Stack to begin with.

The Mythology or Literature Stacks might take it; I don’t know and you’d have to consult their rules. But I truly doubt either would take it, because regardless of whether or not you found a Stack where it’d be on topic, the question is far too broad. The answer is “yes, there are thousands, if not millions, of examples of this in the relevant literature.” You would never be able to produce a single authoritative answer on the subject; every one would just list their favorite(s) and then voting would be a popularity contest based on everyone’s favorite examples.

Since the question was allowed to run for a while here, and we got some answers already, it seems pretty clear that the Bible’s Book of Numbers is winning the popularity contest—but that’s irrelevant, because Stack Exchange does not run popularity contests.

“Which precedent(s) influenced the D&D spell?” is either Off-Topic or Too Broad, if not both

This form of question is not problematic when the challenge is finding any antecedents, because the subject in question is really specific or unique. In such a case, we can have a reasonably high confidence that a matching antecedent is the actual source of the subject’s presence in a game.

That is not the case here. This is, as established, massively broad, filled with far too many examples, rather than the reverse. Since we have something really common and generic, finding antecedents isn’t hard, the hard part is figuring out which one(s) actually were the ones that the designers had in mind when they wrote what they did. And that is a designer-reasons question.

In theory, an actual answer would not be too broad, since presumably some finite subset of antecedents were foremost in the minds of the authors on this subject, and it clearly is to do with RPGs, so the RPG Stack is the correct Stack for it. I doubt any other Stack would be interested in it. However, designer-reasons questions have recently been declared off-topic.

Because there is just no way of knowing what influenced the designers without digging into their own words. Maybe Arneson and Gygax, or whoever originally wrote this, actually commented on it and provides an answer to this question. Maybe someone could do an analysis of the history, precedents, and context of the publication and build up some kind of case for a particular alleged source.

But in practice, people rarely did that and mostly weren’t doing it here. I know nitsua60 started to, and those with the appropriate privilege can see their deleted answer doing it. But already the question was exhibiting exactly the problems that difficult designer-reasons questions always have, namely a plethora of unsupported speculation that makes absolutely no attempt to make the jump from “plausible explanation” to “the actual explanation.” Even in the absence of the recent ruling, it would provide a strong example of why we need that ruling.

In short, there is nothing anyone could have done to salvage the question

Your invitation to edit the question to make it fit is nice, but ultimately it doesn’t help: the thing you want to know is not a thing we are prepared to provide here. No amount of editing can get around that fact. That is why the question was downvoted and voted for close without offering suggestion for improvement: no improvement was possible that would actually save the question.

Being “interesting” or “useful” is not relevant here

The question wasn’t closed for being uninteresting, or for being useless, so there is no need to defend its interest or its utility. Being uninteresting or useless might be a reason to downvote, but the current vote rating is quite positive so anyone who thinks the question is either of those things are in the minority. But that isn’t why it was closed.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1/-1 I agree with the first section, disagree with the second. I don't read "where did create water come from" as a designer intent question as much as a (very niche) history-of-gaming one. (It's not "why did Arneson/Gygax give clerics Moses' water-creating ability?" for instance.) Edit: okay, that's a really good third section. +1 it is. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Jul 16 '18 at 18:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60 The reason we considered designer-reasons questions off-topic wasn’t because they were badwrongfun, or because they could never be answered well, but simply because in practice they were answered poorly the overwhelming majority of the time, with baseless speculation. Like designer-reasons questions, this question is best answered with a direct quote from the designers in question. Like those, theoretically an analysis of the history, precedent, and context could have worked. And like those, those things weren’t happening. Walks like a duck, talks like a duck, etc. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jul 16 '18 at 19:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, but it'd only been a day. For my money that's a little quick to render judgment on it. But five other, wise heads disagree with me. So be it. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Jul 16 '18 at 19:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60 I rewrote that second paragraph to try to really get at my objection here—because I really don’t want to eliminate all “precedence” questions from the Stack. Let me know if that sits any better with you. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jul 16 '18 at 19:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ That looks good to me. And I think you're right--by the time I'd gotten two paragraphs into my own answer it was starting to feel like source-hunting to bolster my long held "cleric=van Helsing+Templar+Moses" mental image rather than really communicating something I knew and had strong support for. [self-directed] Phbbbbt. Having an off day =) \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Jul 16 '18 at 19:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ We've had discussions about how many history-of-gaming questions aren't good questions either - there's real "history" ones but then there's ones that fall afoul of the same problems designer-intent does. "Where does Create Water come from" - unless the answer is "this gaming book" - isn't a history of gaming question, it's a designer-intent one trying to prove influences etc. An on topic history of gaming question should be answerable with proof ("1972!") not "well I bet Arneson knew about hobgoblins from his German Lit clas..." \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Jul 16 '18 at 19:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ This can be said about any "Where did feature X came from" question, can't it \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Jul 16 '18 at 21:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ @enkryptor No, it cannot, specifically on the point of “how many things could be the answer?” For good questions of this sort, it will be hard to find even one thing, because the question will be about something really specific and unique. When that’s true, someone who finds a really matching precedent doesn’t have to work as hard to justify making the connection between that thing and the game—because it’s really specific and unique and it being merely coincidence is unlikely. But yes, a lot of questions of this sort, when it could be any of a lot of things, will have these problems. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jul 16 '18 at 23:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ @enkryptor And again, we tried to support those questions. It didn’t work. It caused a lot of problems, and a lot of need for extra moderation work, and a lot of bad answers, or worse, bad answers that nonetheless got lots of upvotes (blame Hot Network Questions, perhaps). Attracting lots of bad answers is itself a sign that a question should be closed. And if an entire type of question is attracting lots of bad answers, then the ability of this site to handle those questions at all comes into question. As it did with designer-reasons. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jul 16 '18 at 23:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan how can I know if I should restrain from posting a question next time? I was sure the question was OK, since there were similar questions, quite popular and upvoted, with decent answers. But, as you said — "we tried to support those questions. It didn’t work. It caused a lot of problems" — this was not obvious for me. \$\endgroup\$ – enkryptor Jul 17 '18 at 12:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @enkryptor Well, being aware of the meta discussions about designer-reasons questions probably would have helped you. Being more familiar with the “philosophy of Stack Exchange” and how voting should or shouldn’t work, what it means for voting to break down and why that’s a problem, and how that intersects with closing questions and question topicality, e.g. the deal with “list questions,” might have helped you come to these conclusions. But you aren't required to do that; you can just try a question and see if it works out. You aren’t in trouble for having a question closed. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jul 17 '18 at 12:55

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