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We have various folks who ask D&D lore questions, and they get forced to pick a setting in the same way we force people to choose a rules edition, or have their question closed. In the history of the Forgotten Realms, has a Nightmare ever been cleansed of evil? is a recent example.

From a certain point of view, this makes sense - settings are different, right, halflings only strap you to the feast-stone in Dark Sun (unless you really deserve it otherwise I guess), so doesn't that stand to reason?

Well, here's the problem. D&D itself - across its editions - has NOT been clear about maintaining that division. Even the "core" races, religions, etc. in the Player's Handbook form a sociology and mythology that some settings trump but do not require a setting to define. The majority of older Dungeon Magazine articles about the ecology of this or society of that, for example, were not labeled for a specific setting like the Realms or Greyhawk, but were just "generic" setting content.

This had been bothering me for a while, but I came to this realization after listening to a recent Plot Points podcast that discussed this commonality and being led from there to the new Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes where they explicitly talk about items in the "D&D Mythology," a continuing mashup of things from various worlds (or that were generic in the first place, like the demons and devils). Drow being the children of Lolth etc. - while there are settings that override that, it's not a "Greyhawk" or "Realms" or whatever thing, it's a "common across many D&D settings thing." The Dragon Mag "Wizards Three" articles with their Wizards Three (representing Greyhawk, the Realms, and Dragonlance) gave an imprimatur to this whole multiverse mash-up effectively utilized by, I would dare say, the majority of D&D groups over time.

So just like we can ask GM techniques questions not specific to a specific edition of a specific game, or use , because while games differ there's lots common to all trad games, for example, do we need to command questioners to specify a setting at the risk of question closure?

If they are using a specific setting, then obviously they should mention that. But that's not how many people play D&D. D&D is often played as a partially made up mashup of whatever books and adventures and ideas people have at hand. Is it really in anyone's best interest for them to be forced into "uh... in the Forgotten Realms I guess?" Does that solve their problem?

Given this, how should we provide guidance on D&D lore questions?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for asking this, this is a conversation I'd really appreciate seeing some guidance from myself in figuring out how to moderate lore questions. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Aug 4 '18 at 16:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ 5e recently redoubled the “multiverse” thing by making that edition’s default setting the Multiverse rather than any particular world. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Aug 4 '18 at 16:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ While at the same time forcing Adventurers League and DM's Guild, two of the highest-profile faces that many players see, to hew to Forgotten Realms. So much so that a lot of players I've met IRL think that the core books say FR is the default. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Aug 4 '18 at 16:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60 D&D organised play has always been in a specific setting though, so that’s not unusual. (2e was FR, specifically contained in Raven’s Bluff and surrounds; 3e was Greyhawk; 4e varied by season; 5e is FR again.) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Aug 4 '18 at 17:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ Dragon Magazine had the ecology of articles. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Aug 6 '18 at 12:50
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Not always.

There are different kinds of lore questions.

One kind is looking for information about an actual setting ...

... whether the asker knows it or not. In this case, if they know the setting they should tag it, but if not knowing that is part of their problem then it should go in the answer. For example, someone asking "I was reading about the Wizards Three, I know Mordenkainen and Elminster but who the heck is Dalamar?" It would be Orwellian to require them to tag the question 'dragonlance' if that's part of what they don't know in the first place. Same thing with differences between the various editions/ages/reboots of campaign worlds - just answer the darn question and note the change. It's fine to elicit more details from them in comments, just don't make it a "demand to not be closed" or couch it in "you must be new here and not know how this non-forum works."

  1. Example: someone asking "I wanted information on playing a cleric of the god Bane in 3.5e."
    • It's fine to ask them "So are you playing in old FR pre-Time of Troubles? Because Bane got killed back then." But it's an equally valid answer for them to say "eh whatever canon is lame we're mixing and matching what we want," in which case just answer them. 3.5e Bane cleric ports? Good Bane lore information that should be portable? Stop tormenting the OP for not being a Canon Setting Drone and post it.
  2. Example: Location of The Cloak of Stars brothel in Silverymoon
    • Maybe the OP doesn't post it as forgotten-realms because they don't know (believe it or not, many players are kinda hazy about their DM's setting). Feel free and add the tag if it's the right thing to do. Though in this case the question ends up being a non-canonical addition anyway.

A second popular kind is asking "has thing X ever happened?"

These could indeed be too broad if you're asking "Was there ever an owlbear with black feathers in any published D&D product ever?" I tend to not like these questions because the real question is "I am not confident in creating new content and ideas myself and feel enslaved to whether there is precedent." The question that got me started on this meta (about redeeming Nightmares) is like that; I refrain from answering them because the answer I'd give is "who cares, do it if it's interesting for your game."

But does making them specify a setting really make it better? Is "black owlbear in all 3,000 Forgotten Realms products" less broad than "black owlbear in all 10,000 total D&D products"? Not really. If a lore question is a fishing expedition it's "too broad" regardless of whittling down the scope. But this isn't a problem with "you didn't say a setting" that specifying a setting fixes, this is a question too broad by its nature.

The third popular kind is asking about more general pseudo-historical things

Questions in this class are like Where do Gorgons come from, according to D&D lore? This one was correctly left open even without a setting specified, but over the body of deleted comments and close votes over the issue. (One of the goals of this meta is to make it clearer when that needs to happen). The lead answer cites the kind of "D&D Mythology" articles I mention in the question, Dragon Ecologies articles, and so on.

There are some questions that definitely need to be more specific

That's because the particulars do vary. What is under the Underdark? is a good example; while there's a lot common about the Underdark in "D&D Mythology", what is "under it" is definitely something more setting specific.

What's actionable about this answer?

Before forcing a poster to specify a setting and/or age, consider first whether you are helping them and the site in that case by forcing it. If you do not have enough knowledge about that thing and/or setting to tell, then leave off for those who do.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Aug 6 '18 at 21:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ edit for organization and readability, and to close with "a call to action" \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Aug 2 at 14:40

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