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I recently wanted to ask a question to see if something was possible RAW in any published RPG systems. It was eventually put on hold as Off Topic - Game Recommendation, and I proceeded to try to edit it into a stackable format. What I ended up with could be distilled to:

Are there any X that are Y?

As you can see, this format only wants a confirmation (yes/no), though it would be implicit (and in my case explicit) that an example would qualify such an answer, in much the same way as someone's experience might qualify a homebrewing answer as "good subjective".

After some effort there and some research here (including asking how I might fix it) I found out lots.

There are discussions on what exactly should be disallowed as shopping or game recommendation all over this meta, including here, here and here. That last one actually points to the line in the help center asking guide that says:

If you're looking for a game mechanic or technique that does thing X, ask for how to do X, not for "games that have X". Asking for a game, or a list of games, is a game recommendation question, which are off-topic.

Which is starting to get close, but still is focused on a specific system (or list of them, which is also a list question) as the answer, rather than a simple confirmation.

This discussion was frequently referenced to me, but all I could find was:

In many cases, however, instead of asking a shopping question (which game system/online tabletop/psionic subsystem/etc "is best"), you can ask a more focused question

Which would seem to suggest my question was fine, as it was pretty clearly a more focused question. There are actually whole heaps of other similar questions that haven't been closed, and similar meta questions where others have been similarly confused.

What should be considered off topic, and why?

It was in the comments to my meta question that I discovered what was actually going on - KRyan told me:

So, in my experience, here’s how this would go: you ask if there are any systems that do this, and you’re very specific and exact about what you want. And it turns out that no system does it, or at least no system anyone knows. But people don’t just leave it unanswered (which they should). No, they start supplying “the best answer they can think of.” Which is their own personal opinion of the game system that’d be most amenable to such a thing. Nevermind that you required it be explicitly in the rules-as-written, they’ll give you something that doesn’t do that. At that point, we have a problem: people are submitting whatever answer they like, the actual question’s requirements be damned, and they’re getting voted on. Some of them are being rated quite positively, in fact—because people like the idea or like the system or whatever else, not because they’re good answers. And then the mods have to come in and clean up, and delete popular answers, and there is much gnashing of teeth—and you still don’t have an answer. That’s what keeps happening with these kinds of questions, and why we close them.

So it would seem that this is another situation like that lamented in the comments on Are Game Recommendations On Topic Revisited: "so 'this is why we can't have nice things' is now recorded for posterity" which is understandable.

However, if this is going to be the case, can we make it clear somewhere official (perhaps in the asking guide) that "Are there any X that are Y?" or even "Are there any Systems that are Y?" is also Off Topic as it shares some of the difficulties regarding (unfortunately) likely answers that don't actually answer the question and lower the quality of this site's content?

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    \$\begingroup\$ related, I think: questions and the scope of the RPG landscape \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Aug 3 '18 at 3:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ When you say "somewhere official", could you expand on why the meta post linked in the close reason isn't good enough? Meta is where site policy is built, and I'm having trouble understanding why that's not "official" enough. \$\endgroup\$ – DuckTapeAl Aug 4 '18 at 2:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ The only meta posts where something close to this is discussed are actual questions (like this) from normie users (like me) that don’t have an accepted answer. Game recs revisited does not state that this form of question is not allowed. If it was amended so that it did, that would certainly be official enough. \$\endgroup\$ – Isaac Reefman Aug 4 '18 at 2:59
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I've added the following summary to the top of Are Game Recommendation Questions On Topic, Revisited:

This means the following kinds of questions are off topic:

  • I want to play (details) kind of game/story. What game should I use to do that?
  • Which game does (thing) the best?
  • Are there any games that let me do (thing) / have this specific mechanic?

This list is not exhaustive. If your question will boil down to “here are some criteria” and answers will boil down to “here is a game / some games”, then it is a game recommendation and off topic.

That kind of summary was probably long overdue. The post looks like it is mostly written for people who already understand what's going on, but leaves it hard for someone who only joined in the past 1–2 years to understand.

See also: Can we ask about the existence of a game?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Feel free, but I've basically been ignoring this because I don't think we can come up with a comprehensive list of every way someone can accidentally or deliberately misunderstand the game-rec rules and don't feel like it's good time investment to try. Once people start "X of Y'ing" they need to get over it - you didn't know, you done got told, move along. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk says reinstate Monica Aug 5 '18 at 14:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk I get that you can't expect an exhaustive list of examples but I still believe there needs to be more than just the undefined interpretation of mods to go on; some way of being able to reference why certain kinds of questions are problematic so you can compare new ones to those parameters. doppelgreener's "If your question will boil down to" approach works decently to that regard, and the edit can only improve clarity which can only be a good thing. \$\endgroup\$ – Isaac Reefman Aug 5 '18 at 22:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ Defining a list comes with the risk that people will conclude formulas not explicitly on it are on topic, but that is indeed why I included the disclaimer that it's not exhaustive plus the guideline people can apply. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Aug 6 '18 at 9:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ It also comes with the risk that people are more likely to reject good questions that happen to almost fit the formula. For example, rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/57578/… is something I would expect people not familiar with the game-rec banning fiasco to close as similar to point one. It's not actually similar, because for each point asking about one or two games rather than all of them makes things answerable and different, but I'm not sure people will realize that. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Aug 15 '18 at 17:15

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