The community had the idea to start a community wiki Glossary of Common RPG Terms to hold trivial definitions of RPG terms. Some people have been complaining about questions being closed and merged over to it.

  1. So, do we maintain the Glossary or not?

  2. And do we allow "definition questions" or not?

There are problems with allowing definition questions. Stack Exchanges are for "expert" discussion. You won't get very far on Stack Overflow with "What is Python," "What is a constant," or "What does CI stand for?" You'll get downvoted into oblivion, go try it. Similarly, I don't know that we want a bunch of rep whoring clutter questions of "What is a Hit Die?" "What does RAW stand for?" "What is D&D?" I find it hard to say loads of that will make the site any better.

I think the glossary allows us a way to answer those questions and not totally declare them off topic for the site.

In your answers, clearly state whether you think the glossary should stay and whether you think definitions are on topic questions for this SE.

Strongly consider voting and commenting on existing answers instead of starting your own, because if we don't see a clear consensus on direction emerge from the vote, we will go with the status quo. "10 different answers with 2 votes each" is not helpful to us mods (well, it helps us feel justified that there isn't a problem).

  • \$\begingroup\$ OK, we're at 5 and 5. After this weekend I'm going to consider the matter closed. Currently @CRoss' answer is in the lead as it is tied in votes but has the support of both mods, and as you know we are worth 5 or so normal people individually. :-) \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Apr 9, 2011 at 12:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ The Glossary was retired long ago, just noting it for the record now. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Aug 15, 2013 at 13:11

5 Answers 5


I would suggest that we avoid a glossary, but only allow non-trivial questions.

Maintaining a glossary isn't really the purpose of SE (it's expert Q&A if you haven't noticed), and it's not the easiest thing to maintain in this format.

  • The system doesn't incentivize editing answers.
  • The system doesn't make it easy to maintain a glossary.
  • It's discouraging to users (new and old alike) to be told to RtFG (Read the Friendly Glossary).

But having a question for every term imaginable isn't really much fun or much good for the website. I propose the following rules for determining trivial terminology questions from non-trivial.

  • Is it really RPG related, or is it a science fiction, fantasy, or internet term?
  • If you search for the term by itself, will it show up in the first 5 google results, in a reasonably direct and understandable format?

This is largely influenced by the SO Blog's Are Some Questions Too Simple.

I entirely agree with Seven Sided Die's suggestion that questions that ask more than for a simple definition are a great improvement.

  • 9
    \$\begingroup\$ I'd add: if the term is a tag, the definition belongs in the tag-wiki hover text. \$\endgroup\$
    – yhw42
    Commented Apr 2, 2011 at 13:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ I agree with this especially in light of the SO blog post you linked. Trivial definition questions should be closed as "General Reference." Sure, people can use them to discuss more than the scope of the question - but isn't it a SO goal to keep discussion to the scope of the question? \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Apr 2, 2011 at 15:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've just tired searching for some of these terms in the question via the search bar, and none of the ones I tried come up. I'd suggest putting re-direct links to all of them (and closing loads as duplicates) or closing this thread and reopening others. As it stands the glossary still exists. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 19, 2012 at 0:28

I think definition questions are on-topic for two reasons:

  • RPGs are a niche of a niche of a niche, so definitions are hard to find. If the definition is on the "Roleplaying StackExchange", googling for the term + "rpg" will likely land here once a question exists. That's useful!

  • We're unlikely to get many definition questions, and highly unlikely to get them just to boost rep: people who are novices are unlikely to consider/care about manipulating their rep, and those are the most likely people to ask definition questions. Non-novices just aren't going to ask definition questions much, but when they do it'll very likely be an honest question. Both categories of asker mean giving the benefit of the doubt and allowing the questions is safe for the site.

In that light, should we have a glossary to house such questions? I'd say no.

  • "List of" types of pages are just big data dumps, hard to organise, and full of extraneous information that someone arriving from Google is unlikely to care about or want to dig through for their answer.

  • A one-term, one-question setup leverages the system's existing organisation, makes for a quick answer to a Google search, and contains only the immediately relevant information.

  • Furthermore, questions closed as duplicates are considered hostile to users arriving from search engines. Closing definitions and merging them into a wiki forces the user to work harder to figure out whether our site actually does contain the answer, or whether the search engine hit was false. We don't really want that.

As a bonus, having entire questions devoted to answering a definition means we don't have to try to make rules about what makes a question a "definition" (and a target for merging/closing/etc) and what makes it a more general question. "What is an ashcan?" could have been seen as a definition question, but it ended up providing much more information that simply what the word means. If we have to treat definitions specially from other questions, there will likely be some contentious grey areas that will increase our site unfriendliness.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ This is how I see it as well. The idea of policing a special type of question makes me cringe with memories of the very grey Should be CW! comments. \$\endgroup\$
    – yhw42
    Commented Apr 2, 2011 at 13:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm happy to not organize the "glossary" (as that requires me watching for definition questions, and editing them in.) But we should then revert the glossary into normal site format with specific questions that the various glossary tags can be answers to in greater detail. Or something. I don't know. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 3, 2011 at 2:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ Note that merging two questions issues a redirect to most users, so there is no harm other than the extra redirect. But closing as duplicate does not. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 3, 2011 at 7:23

Neither of the existing answers quite match my thoughts, so I'll post a new one. If someone reads this and doesn't find it sufficiently different from the others, let me know and I'll remove it.

Having seen this site run for a few months now, I've never seen a point where glossary questions made up a large fraction of the site. This could be because the mods are getting to them before I'm seeing them, but I have no real way of verifying that.

I've also noticed that "my question was closed" seems to be a huge complaint by people who speak poorly of their experience on the site.

On the other hand, trivial questions are dangerous. A few won't hurt us, but if they pile up they can be a huge detriment to the site.

I think that we need to treat this as an approachability issue. New users should be answered briefly, given an upvote if they're below the comment threshold, and otherwise ignored. Linking to the glossary in this case should be encouraged by editing an appropriate link into the answer.

If a particular definition question gets asked repeatedly, then we really have no choice but to close it.

Perhaps having mods close the question a day or two later wouldn't be as much of a sting.

For users who have been around a little while, we should be much stricter about the question. In the general case, someone like me shouldn't be asking such a trivial question. A few exceptions can be made for questions which seem to be generating interesting answers (such as the Ashcan question SevenSidedDie linked), although I'm not sure how to adjudicate that ahead of time.

So far as the glossary goes... It can be useful for linking new users to, as part of answering their question. I won't really miss it if it's gone (there are other glossaries out there), but I have no problem with having it around. The main thing is, I don't think that having or not having the glossary should impact how we answer definition questions.

Something else that may potentially help would be linking to a glossary in the FAQ (either our own, or someone else's).


I basically agree with @SevenSidedDie (and up voted his) but ...

  • FAQ and Glossaries should come after a question has been answered not before or during. This may be months after, in a tidy up phase.
  • I have no problem with a question being closed, if it has already been answered and then pointed to the correct answer. But there should still be a chance for a non-irritating question to generate new content that is useful.
  • Merging questions to me seems wrong.
  • This is not StackOverflow, we are game players not programmers here (ok I am a programmer but you know what I mean), rules from StackOverflow do not necessary apply here they can be used as a guide but they should not be the rule.
  • I don't think there are trivial questions, only trivial answers ;)
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Pat: thanks for the spelling corrections. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 4, 2011 at 15:53

I think a safe bet for the glossary would be to close any questions which would be answered by the glossary section in a book. Even if something is well understood, if the book assumes knowledge of a term and forgets to define it, it's perfectly reasonable to ask that here.


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