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I recently gave this answer to a question asking on how the Sleep spell works. The OP was confused about one part of it. As a counter example I wrote a homebrew spell that did work the way the OP thought the RAW spell did.

My intent was that it would show why the RAW spell doesn't work this way. I was immediately downvoted and given the homebrew must be tried and tested response.

I agree with that advice if I was suggesting using my homebrew version instead of the RAW sleep. In this circumstance are homebrew counter-examples an acceptable answer or should I just avoid using homebrew unless the OP asks for it?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't know if "reasonable" is the best word here; perhaps "ideal" or "acceptable". \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jan 7 at 2:07
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We have very few rules on what is an appropriate or inappropriate approach to answering questions.

This is a deliberate design choice (as in, it’s been built into the site for us, not a matter of community preferences): answer writers are free to experiment and try to answer in the best way they think they can, so that we have a chance of attracting the best possible answer to any given question.

So yes, it’s perfectly fine to answer the way you did.

Does it make for a good, clear, well-supported, non-confusing, useful answer? That’s up to voters.

TL;DR: Answers are free to try to solve the problem however seems best; voters are free to vote on the results however they think best.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Does this mean the "homebrew tired and tested" rule doesn't apply to this situation? I'm beginning to recognise that adding homebrew will attract downvotes regardless I just want to make sure its not going against best practices. \$\endgroup\$ – linksassin Jan 8 at 0:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ He's trying to say "there's no rule per se against giving an answer with a fake homebrew in it." But also there's a high likelihood it'll get downvoted as confusing and unclear. You're getting split answers because it's not clear if you're asking if there's a rule against such answers or if your answer was not good and that novel approach is probably in general not the best. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Jan 8 at 1:27
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There is no technical rule against answering a question in this way, and I wouldn't say it requires "tried and tested" homebrew. So it is a licit answer.

On the other hand, this is a bad way to answer. You can reword any spell in many different ways, and I would have a hard time finding such an answer helpful.

Beyond that, your answer does in no way make it clear that you're not suggesting your spell as untested homebrew as an answer ("improved version of sleep" instead of "a comparison point"), and if I had come across it before now I probably would have actioned it myself as untested homebrew. So if you really intend it just as a comparison point, that's not coming across.

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It's not an ideal answer, in my opinion

Rather than citing any 5e design guidelines (e.g. the DMG's guidance on "Creating a Spell") in explaining why the sleep spell doesn't work the way OP thinks, your answer simply asserts that if it did work the way OP thinks, it would be something like the homebrew spell you made up as an example. It doesn't cite any relevant rules; it simply asserts that certain things are true (though you do briefly explain your chain of logic).

Essentially, you explain your own design philosophy in creating a different sort of sleep spell, but nothing in your answer provides evidence that this is why the current sleep spell doesn't work that way.

Moreover, your own answer basically states that this is a homebrew suggestion as a solution to OP's problem (i.e. a sort of frame challenge: "It doesn't work that way, but here's how it could"):

However, this is a cool idea and this is what you would need to do if you wanted it to work that way.

(...Even though the sentence immediately afterwards claims it's not a suggestion. You're basically saying, "Here's how you could make it work. But wait, I'm not suggesting you make it work this way." It's sort of self-contradictory and unclear.)

And if you're suggesting homebrew as a solution to the problem, then it does need to be supported by evidence and/or experience, per the "Good Subjective" guidelines, not simply by "spitballing".

In short, actually designing a homebrew spell is unnecessary to answering the question; it would be sufficient to simply point out any flaws with the OP's misconception of the sleep spell, and cite the 5e design principles/rules violated by their misunderstood version of the spell.


A related discussion on meta: How should I provide examples of experience as support for my answer?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for a clearly explained response. I realised the wording of my answer may have indicated it was a suggestion rather than a comparison and I added the clarification after the fact. Had I cited the DMG though this style of answer is acceptable? \$\endgroup\$ – linksassin Jan 7 at 2:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is a decent analysis of why it’s not a great answer, but none of this adds up to it being inappropriate to answer that way. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jan 7 at 16:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie: Well, originally the question was asking if it was "reasonable", which I didn't think it was (in the sense that I thought it was flawed). I agree that it's not "unacceptable" (i.e. to the sense that it should be removed/deleted), though, and have edited the header to clarify. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jan 8 at 1:29

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