If anyone has other approaches to subjective support, please provide an answer on the duplicate questions linked above.

It is clear that we require answers to be backed up here- whether they are subjective or objective.

Objective support is fairly clear, but what about subjective? Does stating "I've had X years of playing" qualify?

Do you need to not only say that, but also provide examples of what you're recommending and how it worked (backed up by experience?)

What other ways are there that qualify as a support for a subjective answer?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Related: What are the citation expectations of answers on RPG Stack Exchange? and How do we ask and answer subjective questions? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 26, 2019 at 15:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ Related blog: SO post on Good subjective-Bad Subjective \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Jun 26, 2019 at 15:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ I am not sure how What are the citation expectations of answers on RPG Stack Exchange? does not already answer this in some detail. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Jun 26, 2019 at 21:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk Mostly because of recent disagreement on what subjective support constitutes. I've always thought that Q&A covered it as well, but this seemed worth it to have a separate question dedicated to discussing subjective support. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Jun 26, 2019 at 21:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ Because those Q&As are unclear or because people aren't reading them? I'm not a fan of just restating what we already said in other meta questions because people aren't listening, the likelihood they will read post 3 is low and the likelihood the drift between the various questions will confuse avid meta users is high. But, whatever, largely cut and paste answer inbound. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Jun 26, 2019 at 21:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ I've added an answer but also kinda want to VtC as dupe of the citation expectations meta because this is just asking exactly that. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Jun 26, 2019 at 21:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan I'm not in total disagreement and may actually duplicate it, too. But Rubiksmoose thought that it was worth separating out. And given the ongoing disagreement on how to answer subjective questions with support and that existing Meta didn't seem to help, this seemed like a good idea. And Mxy's answer adds more to what they've said before in a very clear way that I think is very helpful. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Jun 27, 2019 at 15:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch: Honestly, I think it'd have been far better if Sardathrion asked about what they were confused about that wasn't already answered there, rather than you asking on their behalf, as it were - that way, it could have been clarified what exactly they found confusing or unclear. I don't really see what part of this question isn't covered by that one and the citation expectations one. (This is further supported by the fact that mxyzplk's answer here is largely just quoting and then summarizing his and doppelgreener's answers to those two metas.) \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented Jun 28, 2019 at 6:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast I did not ask on their behalf. I agree that it would have been had Sardathrion asked (and they still can, especially if their question is different), but the discussion I had with them made me realize that maybe I didn't understand what constitutes support for a subjective answer - so I asked the question. I asked because I wanted to improve my own approach/response to subjective answers. If that's wrong, then I don't want to be right. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Jun 28, 2019 at 12:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ Related on Is this site for experts or not? \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Aug 27, 2019 at 14:17

1 Answer 1


This answer won't discuss the policy or why we do it, that's well covered elsewhere. It will take the Good Subjective/Bad Subjective policy as gospel and explain how to give Good Subjective answers and Back It Up! specifically.

First, per How do we ask and answer subjective questions?:

Answering Subjective Questions

The blog post Good Subjective, Bad Subjective is the gold standard for understanding how to make good on topic answers to subjective questions. The heart of it is using the Back It Up! principle, which states that you should only answer based on:

  • Something that happened to you personally
  • Something you can back up with a reference

Here, "happened to you personally" means real play experience. We understand that some people believe that given their wide experience in games they think they can tell someone the right technique or system or solution to use for their particular need even though they haven't done it themselves - but when everyone does that, it leads to opinion-laden chaos. "Good Subjective" is constructive and is based on experience and expertise. "Bad Subjective" is speculative and is based on conjecture and opinion. Speculative answers will be downvoted, commented on ("Back It Up!"), and/or deleted.

Second, per What are the citation expectations of answers on RPG Stack Exchange?:

What are the citation expectations for Subjective answers?

These are answers drawing on experience to suggest solutions to social problems, best practices, GM and player techniques, etc. Our foundational rule is that these answers must follow the Back It Up! principle found in Good Subjective, Bad Subjective:

Back It Up! means that your answers must be based on either:

  • Something that happened to you personally
  • Something you can back up with a reference

This means when you provide a subjective solution you believe will resolve the situation, we expect that you cite analogous experience of how it has worked out in actual practice — your own experience or someone else's. Describing how it worked out is more preferable to describing how well it worked out: “these things happened, the players felt this way about it” is preferable to “it worked well”, but either is preferable to no citation of it actually being tried at all.

The experience does not have to be of the exact same situation, although that would be ideal. Experience of similar or analogous situations is also relevant and helpful, at least to the extent they are similar/analogous enough to be relevant.

Not OK: “Try this” with no cited experience of how it works

Any of us can say “here's what I'd do” based on no actual experience, or come up with something on the spot as an off-the-cuff idea, but our site is not looking for this content. We want to collect tried-and-tested solutions with well-understood outcomes. We don't want your opinion; we want your expertise. If you do not have experiences you can bring to the table in that particular case, do not answer the question. Answers not doing so may be downvoted and/or deleted. Untested homebrew is to be avoided.

This doesn't mean that you should avoid indicating where personal preference comes into an answer! An answer explaining "I do this because X, but I've seen others do this other thing because Y, and both work" can provide an excellent overview of a wide yet deceptively narrow topic.

Nevertheless, answering “How do I handle this issue” with a recommendation to do this, that, and the other without any experience doing it yourself, or having seen it done, or having anything other than “it sounds good in my head” to believe it would help the querent, makes our site worse.

To apply the Good Subjective, Bad Subjective's guidance on questions to answers as well, a good subjective answer should tend to:

  1. Explain “why” and “how”
  2. Be longer, not shorter
  3. Have a constructive, fair, and impartial tone
  4. Share experiences over opinions
  5. Back up opinion with facts and references, including specific experiences


Q: So do I have to back up my answers to subjective questions?

A: Yes. You should expect your answer to be downvoted, commented, and/or deleted if not (or generate a question close if others are similarly undisciplined).

Q: Do I have to have personally done that exact thing?

A: No, your two options are experience or citing a reference. That could be a book, it could be "Matt Mercer did it in a session in this video and here's what happened..."

Related experience is fine, just clarify what it is. "Well, I did this in Call of Cthulhu 5th ed, you're playing 7th but it should apply" gives someone useful information to understand the applicability of your answer to their situation - certainly much more than a bare assertion of "Do this."

Q: Is "I've played that game for years" enough of a citation?

A: Not for most questions. Most good questions are specific, and "I've played that game for years" doesn't mean you have an actual good answer to something if you didn't do that during those years. "Here's how I'd throw someone out of my group" - if you've played for 20 years but never thrown anyone out of your group - is not helpful.

Q: But isn't this "proof by anecdote" and isn't that terrible?

A: Click the link to read Good Subjective, Bad Subjective. It has two lovely diagrams showing how knowledge is a continuum, and some things have purely objective answers and others don't.

The Continuum of Knowledge

We want to tap the expertise that lies beyond the pure opinion but short of "multiple peer reviewed studies prove it."

Because in RPGs - there aren't many of those, and this would be "read the rulebook to me Stack Exchange." That's not our desired scope, nor is it the scope SEs in general are limited to (again, as that article details).

Q: So if someone cites their experience it means they're automatically right and I should turn off everything else I know about how to behave on RPG.SE?

No. Adding personal experience doesn't guarantee an answer is a good answer. But having that additional detail lets others make that judgement.

Example Question - "How do I eject a gaming group member from my group?"

  • Answer 1 - "Throw their stuff outside and lock them out." - Delete, not backed up.
  • Answer 2 - "I've GMed a lot of games and I'd just throw their stuff outside and lock them out." - Delete, not backed up.
  • Answer 3 - "Once we just threw someone's stuff outside and locked them out. They didn't come back so I guess it worked." - Backed up, terrible answer, downvote.
  • Answer 4 - "My gaming groups have ejected people several times, here's how the different approaches worked in those cases. One group just threw someone's stuff outside and locked them out; they didn't come back but it broke some friendships and there was lots of dramatic texting afterwards, I wouldn't recommend doing it" - Winner winner chicken dinner. Backed up, sound answer otherwise, upvote.

See the difference?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Feel free and add other questions where this is unclear and I will add them to the FAQ. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Jun 26, 2019 at 22:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ That would look so lovely if delete was formatted boldly. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Commented Jun 27, 2019 at 7:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ This does clear things up. Thank you. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 27, 2019 at 8:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Sardathrion Does this resolve your concern around anecdotal evidence or simply clarify why it's more acceptable here? \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Jun 27, 2019 at 15:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for resubmitting and clarifying your previous direction on this here. I'm going to keep the question open for a bit just to see if any of those who have a different viewpoint on how to support subjective answers would like to submit their thoughts. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Jun 27, 2019 at 15:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch Yes, it does. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 1, 2019 at 7:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ What are your thoughts on supporting answers with narrative ideas from movies/books? \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Jul 18, 2019 at 19:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ That's probably a separate question. Depends if it's a question that narrative ideas from movies/books are relevant to; and many traditional media techniques do not translate to free-willed PCs in an RPG. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Jul 19, 2019 at 2:42

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