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There seemed to be a strong consensus in this question that we're not happy with how homebrew review is working on the site right now, and that the way forward is to get some additional rules around it to try to cut down on the most common types of problems these questions have.

What sorts of rules/recommendations do we want for homebrew review questions, if any?

This post is for discussing potential rules/guidance; once we hammer things out here we can make a new post that clearly lays them out for ease of understanding.

Please post each suggested rule/guideline as a separate answer; well-received suggestions will be included in the final "official" post.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Point of order: there’s no “strong” consensus there for specifically adding new rules. There is strong consensus that the community specifically wants to keep homebrew review questions. The mixed thoughts and voting there says there is a lack of certainty on how to handle them better. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie May 26 at 17:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie There was a strong consensus that they are not currently in a good state (note that lack of answers to that question saying they're fine). All of the answers that weren't strictly informational or directly advocating their removal indicated a need for additional rules, or at least additional guidance on how to write a good homebrew-review question (which is almost the same thing). \$\endgroup\$ – Oblivious Sage May 26 at 18:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ Right, there’s a distinction between new/improved guidance and new rules. (Rules need enforcing, guidance just needs linking. That makes them significantly different propositions.) I agree there was a consensus that some things should be improved; it’s just not clearly a consensus for specifically new rules. Maybe tweak this meta to be “what, if any, new rules…”? \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie May 27 at 3:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ For (future) reference: Whether to split homebrew review off of the [homebrew] tag is being discussed in this thread \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil May 27 at 9:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ If we have a bunch of custom rules, it's going to fail, just like every question type we've tried to have a custom ruleset for in the past. Casual users don't and won't look up some weird custom rule set. If we can't find a very obvious way for these to work this is just a 1-year delaying action for a ban. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk May 27 at 16:09
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Vote to Close rapid iteration as duplicates

I suggested this in the other thread and there was some support for it. Really this is just an enforcement method for our current guidelines. So here is a formal suggestion.

Leave at least 72 hours between iterations.

Homebrew is an iterative process and the correct method for this is to post new questions for each iteration. Posting new iterations too quickly has a number of issues including:

  • Gathering insufficient feedback from the previous version.
  • Flooding the question feed
  • Very similar versions with insufficient testing

To prevent these and other issue we will enforce this by closing any iterations, posted within 72 hours of the first, as duplicates.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Only thing I'd say is close anything within 72 hours of the first answer for the original, rather than the original itself (assuming doing it this way is tenable) \$\endgroup\$ – Saladani May 27 at 3:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Saladani I think that would be harder to enforce. Though I agree in principle most questions get an answer within 24 hours anyway so it won't make a big difference. The point is to stop multiple iterations in a day or two. \$\endgroup\$ – linksassin May 27 at 5:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ One thing to add to this is to not edit the current question to update it based on feedback, or that feedback no longer makes sense. \$\endgroup\$ – Bobson Jun 3 at 13:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Bobson That's a good point, but it's already covered in the current guidelines. \$\endgroup\$ – Vadruk Jun 3 at 16:40
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Very few to no special rules

I am a fan of adding one particular rule (I'll get back to that) but adding on a lot of new rules unique to this one type of question is not going to make homebrew reviews succeed. In fact it's probably the best way to ensure they fail, and the more rules we add the faster the failure process will go.

When game recs were on shaky ground right near the start we tried to add new rules to help them work well. The problem was nobody really knew those rules until they broke them, so really all the new rules did was mean people were breaking even more rules (that didn't exist before) all the time and made game recs look worse. Those who did know the rules didn't want to follow them, giving us a this-is-why-we-can't-have-nice-things kind of situation. More severe application of the rules didn't make things better, either. The rest is history: game recs are banned.

We should accept that people are going to mostly act the way they're already acting. Additional rules will see newbies crash into them and more experienced users refuse what they'll see as weird arbitrary constraints. This will make people see a higher rate of failure with the tag (because things aren't meeting the new rules) and unhappier with homebrew review questions on the site. It happened with game recs, it's not going to happen differently for this case: in a year or two people will be voting to ban the topic specifically citing how often Q&A doesn't follow the simple rules laid out for homebrew review (that are special and unique only to it).

We should focus on guidance that funnels them in a good direction but accepts what we're currently getting as still OK. I'm a fan of prompting people to ask more than just "is this balanced?" but we have to accept that kind of question as well. We can focus on diversifying from there.


I want to op-ed a bit in terms of why I support one of the rules that's been proposed, even though I don't want us to go overboard, because I'm hoping it's going to help clarify part of my thought process here.

I'm a fan of adding the 72-hour duplicate closure because that actually isn't a hard roadblock (despite involving a question getting closed): usually this happens because someone's incorporated feedback from only one answer. We'd be telling them hey, slow down, take the time to receive more feedback. We don't waste much of their time -- they've improved their homebrew, they're just showing us the result of that. Meanwhile the original question may still get get more feedback to help them polish it further. We improve the overall health of homebrew reviews by removing that situation where you've just come back after a day ready to write a review and they've already posted a second version and you have to start from square one, and where every version has barely any commentary (let alone contrasting reviews available). 72 hours isn't even that long, we're just catching the worst cases, and when that 72 hours is over it's likely they'll have an even further developed version for us to address.

So for this thing ease of enforcement here is simple, we're not wasting anyone's time (and removing some time-wasting factors), we're mostly accepting how people already do things -- we're just telling them to take it a bit slower and wait another day or two, however long it is, before iterating again. I don't see this causing failure or reducing overall health of this question category (where health is also "people are less happy with having it on the site") and we should keep an eye on things to see what effect it does have on homebrew review health.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I like this rule. Homebrew in and of itself isn't the problem. The biggest problem is when people take a suggestion, make a modification, and immediately repost their homebrew to get another round of feedback. \$\endgroup\$ – JRodge01 Oct 10 at 12:39
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Enforce linking to previous and followup iterations

To understand the development it is mandatory to link to a previous iteration - and to make sure that one is on the most recent version, the next iterations also need to be linked. Offending questions shall be edited to comply.

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Encourage context and purpose

An explicit explanation of what the homebrew is trying to achieve, and why the already existing resources are inadequate in achieving said goals.

A lot of the questions I see are simply here's X, is it balanced? As a community, all we can do is say yes or no to best of our ability. Putting context on homebrew enables the community to leverage more of their expertise. Many "issues" that users are trying to solve via homebrew can be resolved via alternative suggestions that the community can provide, but only if the context is given. Plus, requesting that users justify why official resources are inadequate may spur the critical thinking in some users to find their answer before they post.

  • "Here's my Frogperson homebrew, is it balanced versus officially released races?" "Yes/no/maybe."
  • "I want a character that comes from a swamp and has a swim speed. Here's my Frogperson homebrew, is it balanced versus officially released races?" "Yes/no/maybe. Have you also considered the Lizardfolk race?"
  • "I want a character that comes from a swamp and has a swim speed. The closest thing available is the Lizardfolk, but I want my character to be an amphibian. Here's my Frogperson homebrew, is it balanced versus officially released races?" "Yes/no/maybe. Have you considered reskinning the Lizardfolk as a Frogperson? Change scales to protective slime covering, and bite to a tongue attack"
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is a good guideline but I don't think it makes a good rule. Questions without this are poor questions and candidates for downvotes but don't meet any close reasons. I suggest changing "require" to "encourage". \$\endgroup\$ – linksassin May 28 at 2:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ @linksassin Definitely intended it as a guideline rather than a rule. Your suggestion better encapsulates that. Edited! \$\endgroup\$ – Nesbitto May 28 at 4:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ “why the already existing resources are inadequate in achieving said goals.” I'm not sure what this is going to do for us. We don't really need people wanting to make Cool Doom Sword to explain why they're not just using a Longsword +1; it's because they want the Cool Doom Sword. I'm concerned this opens people up to facing endless nitpicking, plus virtual answers in comments (lots of "why aren't you just using XYZ?"). Also in a lot of games — not D&D — this guideline or requirement would not make much sense. (But then, our homebrew review content is almost exclusively D&D 5e.) \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener May 28 at 10:41
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Please use consistent rules

We should encourage askers to use rules language in their homebrew material that is consistent with the language used by the core system. Questions with homebrew which is "improperly" written tend to (rightly IMO.) get closed as unclear. To help against unclear questions we should have a point to the tune of (thanks @Powerdork):

The intent of your material is often better conveyed when you follow the style guidelines and use the correct system terms of the game in question

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