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I stumbled upon this question today, which has this answer. It's upvoted (currently sitting at +18/-2) and accepted, but is very short and has a standard banner message across it that I've seen elsewhere on other answers (usually badly received answers) saying:

We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

There's also a (highly upvoted) comment by KorvinStarmast that summarises my concerns about this answer quite nicely:

While I don't disagree with this answer, it could use a little more support/reasoning in terms of what spells do, and what constitutes a stat block.

I don't want to come across as picking on a specific user (since I'm sure many answers to older questions may well have similar problems), but in this case, the answerer in question was once a mod and a lot of the older questions about 5e (including back when it was called "D&D Next") have been answered by this user with minimal or no support from rules citations, etc (although not many of those answers are as short as the one I linked to). I'm not going to track down a bunch of examples, I believe they will be easy enough to find.

On one hand, I understand that when many of these older answers were written, upvoted and accepted, the standards we have in place now likely didn't exist back then, or at least were not enforced as they are these days, so it is unfair to accuse them of not following standards that didn't exist at the time. On the other hand, their content still represents this site, and new users will still see such older answers and believe that this is good enough, when nowadays our standards have moved on.

My concern is that these answers come across as opinions, even though I'm sure many of them are completely correct. However, if new users come along, see one of these old questions, post their own opinionated answer without citations, etc, then have it downvoted and told to include citations and not to answer with opinions, it might come across as unfair if they see that a highly upvoted and often accepted answer has apparently been praised for the same reasons they are being "told off" or "punished" with downvotes.

Is this something we need to be concerned with? If so, what should we do about it?

  1. Downvote the answers we don't think are well supported (I'm not sure I care for this, because downvote-bombing a bunch of answers seems like picking on older users for giving answers that don't conform to standards that I'm guessing didn't exist at the time; there's also nothing we can do about such answers being accepted by users who no longer frequent this site)
  2. Edit these old answers to include citations that support the answerer's point, assuming that there are rules that support their answers (this seems more in keeping with the "wiki" feel that the Stack Exchange site is supposed to have over a forum, and that way the "accepted" answers are still presenting the "best" solution as well as setting a good example of what makes a "good" answer on this site; obviously we should try not to change the actual content of the answer, just add support for the points they were making)
  3. Something else...?
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    \$\begingroup\$ It might be impossible for current users to downvote these answers without editing them first, if they've been around long enough that they upvoted it in the first place. \$\endgroup\$ – Carcer Aug 8 at 11:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Carcer This is true, although I'm not much a fan of option 1; then again, some old answers might just be plain bad answers, unsalvageable by option 2, so in those cases, yes, downvoting or even removing upvotes might be problematic for some users. \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Aug 8 at 11:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ That answer is getting cited a lot lately in new answers too, and I believe a recent question was closed as a duplicate of it earlier this week. It’s still “current” in that sense, not just an old answer lying around. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Aug 8 at 16:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ Just a bit more on "the one hand's" side: if many of the answers you're seeing were written early in dnd-5e's life cycle there also wouldn't have been as much supporting evidence out there to cite, in terms of sage advice articles, developer tweets, other RPGSE posts, &c. Not to say that there was nothing, or to take anyting away from your good point bringing this all up. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Aug 8 at 21:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ What is the logical result of this? An organized effort to go forth, scour the historical archives, and vote (or change old votes) in accordance with present standards? And then do it all over again in five years when standards have changed again? Hard pass. \$\endgroup\$ – Novak Aug 9 at 0:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ In this particular case, I've now started a bounty :) \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Aug 9 at 0:59
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If you want to do something about it,

Post another answer or place a bounty

Obviously if you have a better answer than what's already there, post it. If you don't, then a bounty is the tool for the job: it'll give the question new visibility and convey the fact that you think the question is poorly answered. It may even attract new and better answers.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Good point on "use the tools we already have" ... a bounty is such a tool. :) \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Aug 8 at 14:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ Whilst all of the answers so far are good, and all mention bounties, I think yours emphasises and promotes bounties the most, and after seeing V2Blast's bounty in action on the Q&A I gave as an example in the question, I believe that the bounty is the best solution to this problem. Accepted! \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Aug 9 at 14:20
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Write a better answer!

If you feel that answers to old questions aren't satisfactory, then add a new answer. If want to downvote, you of course can, but I tend to err on the side of 'not editing others work massively'. Others are perfectly fine with that and both methods seem acceptable here (and if it isn't, usually OP reverts.)

In the case of non-active users, I'd personally be even more wary to make big additions (even in support) of their answers.

As with all questions, if you can write a better answer, do so!

"Dupes" to these older questions

In this case, the question is still a duplicate. It doesn't matter that the answer may not be satisfactory to you. Duplicate questions are duplicates - but it does provide an opportunity to add a better answer (or put a bounty!)

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    \$\begingroup\$ "In the case of non-active users, I'd personally be even more wary to make big additions (even in support) of their answers." - I can see what you mean; they cannot "defend themselves", so to speak, and revert changes they don't like. \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Aug 8 at 13:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NathanS Bingo. I wish I'd been more clear on that bit, glad Naut raised it. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Aug 8 at 14:04
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Recommendation: leave it alone unless it's plain wrong

Which I guess is "3. Something else..."

I made the comment last week as I had the same reaction that you did: I'd like to see a bit more meat on the bone. I am pretty sure we won't see Waxy back for a while (which makes me very sad) but I'd like to put that answer into some context.

It was a challenge for some people, as play testers and players got used to D&DNext/5e, to recalibrate their expectations about the DM's ruling being an intended feature of this edition, and that players and DM's did not have to chase down a rule for every little detail. Answers like WaxEagle's were a breath of fresh air (for some of us). The long and short of it is; make a ruling, there isn't a rule for that. If you look at the answer to one of my early questions you'll see that point made as part of an answer.

Strictly speaking, there is no clear interpretation. All three cases are justifiable. Also note that 5e discourages literal "rules as written" meanings. As the designers have repeatedly said: "rulings, not rules." The rules were explicitly not written to be scrutinized as a lawyer scrutinizes the law, so we should not be surprised when the end result of "it's ambiguous" is what we find. (@BaconBits)

That philosophical approach, and the advocacy of it, has waxed and waned on and off among our contributors in the past 5 years. (OK, I just noted that pun. I'm leaving it there).

Unless the answer is flat out wrong, I see no point in taking any action.

"The DM needs to make a ruling" is Not an opinion based answer for D&D 5e

Or, do as Pierre suggests in his answer: place a bounty on it if you'd like to see it improved, or see an improved answer.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This is a fair response; also, I'm not saying that such answers are just opinions, simply that they may come across as such, particularly for new users without the experience to tell the difference. \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Aug 8 at 12:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also, the reason I stumbled upon that question is because someone recommend that this question might be a dupe of it. If I had asked this question, I would find that the answer wax eagle gave wouldn't really be satisfactory for me. In the OP's shoes (OP of the question I linked in this comment, I mean) I'm not sure of a better way to say "can someone provide a better answer to this other question" besides asking a dupe that would be closed as such, and then there still wouldn't be a more in depth answer that I was after... \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Aug 8 at 12:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NathanS I completely get your point, and I am seeing the same thing. I've watched the "conventional wisdom" move around on that since I began participating here. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Aug 8 at 12:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NathanS I tossed in that bottom line since we have had to have that discussion more than once since this edition came out. I added the link to the relevant meta. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Aug 8 at 12:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ Big +1 for the reminder on "DM needs to make a ruling" is perfectly adequate and often times the correct answer. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Aug 8 at 13:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch It might be worth pointing out that for old answers that say "no RAW, ask DM", like in Korvin's linked meta Q&A, that's fine, I have no problem with those. It's when someone authoritatively says "The answer is this" with absolutely no backing. In the example in my question, focus more on wax eagle's first paragraph rather than his second. He flat out says what's what like he's saying "it's definitely like this", before then doing a U-turn in the next paragraph by saying "there is no RAW". If the answer didn't contain the first paragraph, I'd have no problem with that answer at all... \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Aug 8 at 13:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NathanS Up to Korvin to add. But that's often a pet peeve of mine where they start in perfectly fine territory, but then go on to recommend something without support. All good if they cite support, though. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Aug 8 at 13:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch Yes, maybe under Korvin's answer isn't the best place to have this conversation (this isn't a criticism of Korvin's answer, after all...); But I think you get my point here, it's seems as though wax eagle's answer is the upside-down version of what you don't like: starting in perfectly fine territory, then ending on an unsupported statement. In this case, wax eagle started with an unsupported statement, then ended on a far more reasonable answer. It's the first part of his answer that bothers me... \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Aug 8 at 13:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NathanS Then see my answer for my suggestion on how to handle :) \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Aug 8 at 13:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NathanS In these comments works for me as is addresses elements of the answer. And has some thoughts on what might improve the answer. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Aug 8 at 14:04
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That answer is fine

A short answer isn't always a bad answer. The answer supports itself by pointing out that in 5e equipment is part of a creature's statistics (as defined in the MM), which is true and sufficient to answer the question. They could have quoted that MM section (but it would make the answer worse-- look at that text wall answer at the bottom of the page now. Plus it's kind of insulting to treat readers like they don't know how to look up basic information in a book), and they should have left out the speculative bit at the end, probably, but overall the answer is fine.

When adjudicating question length to see if something is too short, I do the following:

  • Does the answer answer the question, instead of just presenting the facts needed to answer the question; Does it actually draw its conclusions?
  • Does the answer support its conclusions? Is that support correct and well-known or built up from things that are?
  • Are obscure things cited well?
  • Does it answer the whole question, or just part of it.

If yes to all, then I think it's fine. Notably, I try to actively suppress my urge to complain that an answer doesn't have:

  • Extra related stuff, even if it seems important to me to mention, especially stuff related to playstyle or norms
  • Support for stuff that's reasonable to assume an expert on the topic should know, unless it's germane to the question
  • Detailed discussions of edge cases on very low-level, basic questions, though I might edit in some 'usually's if I think they are needed and the playstyle of the querent isn't super hostile to me as a person.

It's important to remember that brevity is a good thing, as long as it doesn't come at the cost of quality. Essays are fine, but not every answer needs to be an essay.

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