# Has Role-Playing Games Stack Exchange lost its appeal?

In comments to my answer to the Our beta stats are slipping question, there was a question and answer exchange:

Baelnorn: the site has recently lost lots of its appeal
jprete: Can you elaborate on "lost lots of its appeal"?


Since I believe that questions are better as questions, rather than as comments, I ask the question again here. More fully,

If the Role-Playing Games Stack Exchange site has lost it's appeal for you, what caused it and what would you suggest to make the site better?

I ask to try and find out if other long time users feel as Baelnorn obviously does, and see if we can come up with suggestions to correct those perceived problems. As is recommended for questions which are borderline subjective, I would ask that people provide examples from personal experience in their answers.

• Apparently Meta has lost its appeal at least, since I'm the only answerer... Apr 28 '11 at 20:47
• Yeah, I think that's a bit self fulfilling too. Less activity here so people check it less frequently, therefore less activity.
– migo
May 11 '11 at 18:18

Heck, as a diamond mod I'm dissatisfied with the site at times too. I think we've shaken out a lot of our initial tone problems but still the content is pretty 4e-centric, or at least there's not a critical mass of content for most other systems, which does become a self fulfilling prophecy about people leaving because there's not enough here on whatever game they play to hold their attention. We've had to fight for more general, non-system-specific, questions to not be kneejerk vote-to-closed based on fear of subjectivity or whatnot, but could stand a lot more.

It's somewhat exacerbated by the small number of people in general that play any specific RPG, easily 1/100 of those that play any given new popular computer game, and by the fact that games are all commercially shepherded and publishers tend to have forums of their own for expert game support. The RPG community is fragmented and not driven by the hottest new release that provides some content coherence to e.g. gaming.SE. Unless you are one of the rare birds like myself that owns hundreds of RPGs, it's easy to feel drowned out.

There's the "scaring off newcomers" problem, but I think we've successfully convinced the community to be more welcoming and less "YOU DON'T KNOW THE COMPLICATED RULES HERE YOU ARE CLOSED GO AWAY." Some of that is inevitable because of the "SE way" but we can certainly be 100% friendlier about it, we've come a long way there but of course can always stand to improve.

I've tried to get people in my gaming group and from my blog to come here, but in general the responses I get are "seems fine, but there's what, one question a month on the game I'm playing?" It's not "It sucked I am leaving on purpose", it's "I have a limited amount of time so I'm going to go to the Paizo forums or Dragonfoot or whatnot - even though those are way less signal to noise, there's so much more traffic that there is still more raw signal there."

I think that largely the solution is to keep promoting the site, and to promote it to specific game communities, till we have enough quality traffic per game to keep people interested in that game.

I think that it's also important to make this site valuable in the Stack Exchange way. SE is successful because it is not a forum, bulletin board, or social networking site. I've seen a half dozen "social media site for gamers!" launch and sink within a month. The value of a Stack Exchange, and why it attracts experts and Google search rank, is that it is about people asking real questions they need help with, and getting specific answers. Not flame wars, not random noodling, not spouting off opinions. What we don't need to do in order to make this site appeal is deviate from the Stack Exchange formula - otherwise this is just one in a sea of sites, all alike.

• I think mxyzplk has put a finger on the problem here. Our answer quality / signal to noise ratio is excellent, but there's still not enough total signal. That limits the interest (unless you're a own-every-RPG-indiscriminately person like me), and is self-reinforcing. (Maybe we should pick one major game at a time and make a coherent question / recruitment effort. D&D4 does have a self-reinforcing critical mass on this site; suppose we pick another and make an effort to reproduce that?) Apr 29 '11 at 16:46
• I agree, if we could blitz specific games and try to attract folks... It would be more effective to suddenly get 10 Shadowrun posters than 10 posters playing 10 different games. Apr 29 '11 at 18:34
• +1 about the other game-specific forums. My attempts to convince other players in my Shadowrun group to try it have always returned, "Oh, I always look on the Dumpshock forums." Newcomers to SE think it's just another forum site; they don't understand that you (potentially) get answers better/faster/with less noise because it's a different paradigm. I hardly think the site has lost appeal; it just needs more followers. May 3 '11 at 1:03
• @tynam one thing they are doing on gaming.se is organizing (with support from SE, Inc) a program where as new games come out, key community members get seeded with a new game for free. They are then (gently) urged to ask questions about the game on the site. Would a program like that help here? May 5 '11 at 22:15
• @Jeff That's an interesting idea. I worry it might be more applicable to BCG and Gaming than it is to RPG - entirely new RPGs simply don't release at anything like the rate that board, card and video games do. (Looking up at my shelf, I see only a few completely new games from, say, the last two years, and most of those are small indie press stuff.) New RPGs also take much longer to build a fan base; they start out in the thousands - if lucky. Hmm... May 5 '11 at 22:44
• ... maybe we could look for small-but-likely-to-grow systems with strong online-community / geek crossover. (From the last couple of years' new games, Eclipse Phase and the Dresden Files spring to mind.) May 5 '11 at 22:45
• Two cents from a first-time user: I really like the conversations I see here, and as a more-established SO user I appreciate the brilliance of the site's mechanics. My only concern is, relating to Mxyzplk's comment, that I've seen several really interesting posts, with lots of great answers, closed for no strong reason. That's a lost opportunity to keep people engaged.
– user1861
May 6 '11 at 12:52
• @Jon hey, as an experienced SOer which questions do you think have been closed for marginal reasons? That might be helpful for us to think about going forward. May 6 '11 at 13:25
• @mxyzplk: That is an excellent question, and I should have included some links in my first comment. Questions #1839 and 2694, maybe. Perhaps it was the right call to close these, I'm really not sure. I think I'll backpedal a bit here and just say "as long as we're trying to build critical mass, let's be cautious about closing threads." SO can afford to be picky.
– user1861
May 7 '11 at 23:52
• i thought i would link this for the sake of relatedness: meta.rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/5814/… Sep 27 '15 at 4:52

The site moves really fast.

When I visit the site casually, most of the questions have already been answered and upvoted. The quickest answers get lots of votes. The slower answers, even if they're better, don't. Often, the correct answer has been chosen within hours.

Often, the highest voted answer is not the best. For example, in What would you pick as the "four elements of mind", the answer with the highest vote total currently describes the Myers-Briggs test. It's quite a good answer, but it's certainly not comprehensive or significantly better than those based on Freud or the humours. (I mean this with all respect to RMorrissey, whose answer it was.) I don't think that, if a better answer comes along, it will get as many votes. The upvoting has happened very fast.

This often means I don't add answers, especially if they require thought, because they won't get as many votes as the quick answer. And it does mean that my casual visits have declined.

• Yeah, that's something I've been noticing for a while. Once a question gets enough mass, new answers are basically competing directly for the "accept" mark, without the ability to compete for votes. It's a tricky balance -- You don't want to penalize early answers too much, because quick answers are often what makes a site like this useful. But you don't want to rule out detailed answers, either. May 6 '11 at 18:37
• My solution is to be quick to up-vote questions, but be stingier with upvotes on answers. Sometimes an answer will just be awesome and it'll get my vote, but often I'll look over the answers, decide none are what I would give an accept to if it were my Q, and then revisit it when there are new answers. Of course, that only affects how quickly my votes are cast… May 6 '11 at 18:50
• Also, when I leave what I think is the "better" answer to a Q with an A that's already highly-voted, I just have to trust that it will be recognised as such over the long term. May 6 '11 at 18:57
• Here's a good example of that coming true: the newest answer of 10 is now the most-upvoted and got accepted. May 6 '11 at 19:05
• @Graham: No offense taken. =) I was just throwing out an idea, based on what I know. I think that's bound to happen with a question that has more than one answer, or has a subjective element to it. IMHO, the SE paradigm works better for problems with a concrete solution, like technical or rules questions. I think it's still a good/valid question, though. Jul 18 '11 at 14:22

Building on Graham's answer - because I can't leave comments yet - it's very hard for folks who aren't 24/7 online to get enough reputation points to perform even basic operations with regards to the content of the site.

Case in point: I can't leave comments yet, and I've been lurking here since October of 2010. I know it's poor form to add answers like this that should be comments - I see people catching flak for it all the time - but I dont. have. a choice.

This is extremely alienating, and I suspect something as simple as restructuring the locks on things like comments can help people feel welcome, rather than told "you don't matter because you're not online enough to have valuable opinions to share."

• That is frustrating. But I think that is an intrinsic part of the site: you're encouraged to start with answers, which are the most important part of the site. It doesn't take long to get enough reputation for comments. May 6 '11 at 16:17
• It took me many months. Of course, as soon as I complain about it, I get enough upvotes to start commenting. :P May 6 '11 at 16:22
• Actually, an additional thought just occurred to me: I play a lot of very esoteric games - part of why it took so long may be because I was providing answers to games not often played by the userbase here. May 6 '11 at 16:22
• @qoonpooka I'm that kind of gamer too, and I've found reputation tends to do that: it'll plateau for a while, and then some Q or A will just skyrocket for some random reason. And then it plateaus for a while… May 6 '11 at 19:07
• very esoteric games - Legend of the 5 Rings? World of Darkness? Pah, two of my favourite games only ever appeared as articles in fanzines. Now, when I was a lad... May 8 '11 at 13:11
• @qoonpooka, they can't be more esoteric than mine...I only play homebrew systems. Unless we get some good setting design or agnostic questions, I don't do much. Though I like it here. May 9 '11 at 2:48
• @qoonpooka - This is a well recognised problem, meta.stackexchange.com/questions/31253/… and the best advice is to just get stuck in, ask and answer questions and not worry too much about reputation. Once you have 125 rep you have all of the most important rights. May 11 '11 at 15:09
• I've called this one out, that people should be able to leave comments from the start, but the powers that be aren't interested.
– migo
May 11 '11 at 17:53
• +1. Comments build what little sense of community exists around here. And users being unable to post them is (unless, like me, they hit that point with their first couple answers) very likely to cause frustration. While it's only 50 rep to be able to comment, it's still a barrier. May 30 '11 at 8:14
• @Mark Booth - It's all well and good to say 'get stuck in' but not everyone has the time to plop down and spend a week using a site actively. These people, nonetheless, have content to bring to the site and are a main staple of a lot of sites like SE. Right now you have a structure that encourages a solid core (desperately needed), but discourages the casual user. Jun 6 '11 at 18:11
• @Alticamelus - No those were just the most popular games I play and so I mentioned. :) How about: Mechwarrior 2nd edition or Star Frontiers (okay I don't actually play that anymore). Jun 6 '11 at 18:14
• The way SE sites are set up also encourages another approach: establishing yourself on one site makes it much easier to gain "entry-level" privileges on another. 125 seems like a lot of rep on your "first" site, but once you're over 200, that 100-point boost on any other SE site means you really only need one good answer (or question) to reach 125 ... and you can begin commenting immediately (with your initial 101 rep). Jun 10 '11 at 17:26

I've been holding off to see if Baelnorn would elaborate on his problems, as they seem to be strictly a superset of my own. But since he's gone, I'll go ahead and write up what's bothering me lately.

The cliquishness of this site is really starting to wear on me. There's always been a certain separation of the posters, and to a certain extent there always will be (spheres of interest and so on), but lately I've had the feeling that the most overtly hostile group has won out.

From the reminders that dnd-4e is "a tag many users ignore" (even though 4e currently only comprises nine of the fifty questions on the front page, most of which are in a cluster several days old) to people that would rather see fewer questions they don't like than more questions they do like (http://rpg.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/930/our-beta-stats-are-slipping/934#934), it's starting to feel a bit like the console wars in here.

What's really annoying me lately though is the What characterizes a “Modern” role playing game or gaming system? question. Ah, a question asking about the design and gameplay trends of the past thirty years! This ought to be good, yes?

"your last paragraph [about the rise of best practices] is dead wrong, in terms of assumption. As with many market-driven creations, based on poorly-defined focus groups. As are many answers so far."

"Gamers don't like modern things they play all the same games from the 1980s anyway"

"Aw, isn't it sweet, thinking of Amber as an early game."

"You are still right as to the ways some newer games try to GM-proof the game, and as they do this, they ruin tha ability for the above-average GM to create a superlative game."

[Regarding an answer about RPGs in general, citing two specific example lines] "So, more streamlined than 'melee' or 'Tunnels & Trolls'? Doubt it."

So, apparently my hobby is a rotting mass of stagnation that hasn't changed in any positive way in thirty years. Wonderful.

• Absolutely not, the hobby was already almost 20 years old when I started, so I don't think of Amber as being 'old school' because it was new when I was new to RPGs. Every month since thought, there has been something new and different to keep me entertained. One of the wonderful things about this hobby is that it is constantly changing and re-inventing itself. I'm sorry if I didn't make that clear in my answer to the question you cited. May 4 '11 at 14:48
• @Mark your quote is probably the most benign one of the set. It wouldn't have bothered me if I wasn't already bothered. Thank you for the context, though. May 4 '11 at 14:51
• Sorry, it was meant to inject a little humour, I'm happy to delete it though if it's just clutter. I'd admit that I'm much more inclined to comment on RPG.se than on SO or other less subjective sites. May 4 '11 at 15:10
• So the problem is comments you don't agree with? Or do you think they are being stated in a hostile way? Some of those comments are stated dickishly, some are just opinions you don't like. The former we can work on, the latter is the Internet. I think one of the main problems is viewing different opinions as "a majority clique!" or something when in reality it's 2-3 people spouting off. May 4 '11 at 16:05
• @Mark Don't stress out over a single comment. If you meant it in fun, then rock on. I'm more concerned with a pattern of folks being passive-aggressive and hostile to things outside their group. May 4 '11 at 16:15
• @mxyzplk I would like to think that it's more the former than the latter, although I'd be willing to see evidence otherwise. Saying that RPGs have been run into the ground since the good old days, or that gamers (implicitly "as a whole") aren't interested in anything post 1989 screams of "kids these days" and are almost certainly factually incorrect in so simplistic a form. There are certainly more polite ways of expressing either opinion. Regarding 2-3 people sounding off: Certainly possible. The quotes come from three or four people. May 4 '11 at 16:20
• @mxyzplk, @Mark This is certainly not the end of the world, or a guaranteed Doom of the site (which is still doing well enough). It's simply something that makes me like the site a little less. I am explaining myself as a courtesy, and am happy to hear counter-arguments. May 4 '11 at 16:22
• well, 4 of those quotes are mine. And were made very quickly while at work. I am not part of any clique; indeed, I can say I know almost no one here. Mxyzplk is correct there, I think. I take Ace's comment very seriously, since I do take the time to post here more than in most places. And while I do Not retract anything I said, nor do I want to be exhibiting an attitude that will drive people away. May 4 '11 at 18:28
• @LordVreeg I suppose "clique" is probably the wrong word. I'm not talking about a connection between people, so much as affiliation to a system (or group of systems). The 4e-haters who snipe at 4e. The grognards who snipe at anything new (with varying levels of "new"). The Gygaxians who don't think that anything post 1e is worth playing. The 4e crowd that makes it clear that they think there is no purpose to playing anything older. There is entirely too little "this is something awesome about my thing" and entirely too much "I don't like your thing." May 4 '11 at 19:24
• @mxyzplk The second is that the way we phrase these things is important. Saying "New is bad" is antagonistic, and is unlikely to win anyone over to your side. Saying "I like this about old" is both less antagonistic and more likely to get you converts (or at least intrigue the people listening). May 4 '11 at 21:39
• @mxyzplk No, but they did say that they were "based on poorly defined focus groups," that gamers as a whole (or a large percentage of them) "don't like [them]," and that "they ruin tha ability for the above-average GM to create a superlative game." Outside of that question, there's certainly at least a couple people that think that having fewer questions about games they don't like is more important than having adequate questions about games they DO like. We have a user who often greets new users by saying "a lot of us ignore that tag." The word might not be used, but the intent feels clear. May 4 '11 at 22:51
• The point of mentioning it is to give the poster an opportunity to consider whether they really are looking for system specific feedback or whether they are just adding the tag because it happens to be the game they're playing; if they realize they are asking a more general question they detag and come up on more peoples' radar. Same for any game system specific tag vs system agnostic. Not that complicated. May 5 '11 at 1:17
• @mxyzplk My point is that the fact that a few people ignore the tag is irrelevant. I'm pretty certain that simply saying something along the lines of "this question could benefit from non-system-specific answers" or "this question could benefit from a wider audience" would be sufficient. If someone initially tagged a question with WoD, I'd like to think that we'd still ask them to widen it if necessary, but we wouldn't do so by saying "some people ignore the wod tag." May 5 '11 at 12:41
• I only said "many users ignore the [dnd-4e] tag" once. When I said it I considered how it was worded, wanting to be accurate because it was bound to ruffle someone's feathers, but figured that wording was as good as it would get without spending several minutes editing six words of a comment that should just be a quick note. Saying on SO "many users ignore the [c-sharp] tag" when telling someone that their Q is generic and would be better off without a language-tag would be uncontroversial. Here, there's enough thin skin on every real/imagined side that it ends up controversial… May 6 '11 at 0:31
• @Ace Ah, that'd explain it, yeah. I do take your point that really, there are better, less alarming explanations of why broadening the Q is a good idea. I'll take that route next time. And I'm going to think on my own observation about thin skin a bit more before I get my huff up again. :) May 6 '11 at 16:07

Also, asking merely system or system specific questions is limiting; while creating a niche for yourself as a place that people can expect to get campaign or setting suggestions will increase the traffic as well.

I know "how would you do this?" creates a less precise answer than, "What is the mechanic for this", but how different people approach the same issues is what makes this hobby so worthwhile.

• +1 for this - some of the best answers I have received have been because of those types of questions (such as the paranoia question I just asked recently). These are the types of things I am looking for most from a site like this :) May 3 '11 at 1:17
• This is a good idea, I agree the types of threads certain forums have where every answer is valid and everyone posts their answer with nobody reading it aren't helpful, but I think there is room for more subjectivity when talking about RPGs.
– migo
May 11 '11 at 18:08

The site's appeal is limited by format (no real sense of community in a pure Q&A format), and by the wide range of gaming styles.

Add to that the D&D-4E centered nature of the majority of questions, and you have a recipe for BLAH.

Also, some moderation issues. The biggest one is the cases of similar but not exact duplicates being closed and labeled "exact duplicate." Not only discouraging, but downright wrong in several cases.

But also, the stifling of discussions in comments that (in many cases) lead to edits which improve answers.

I post her mostly out of boredom.

• Could you expand on "the wide range of gaming styles?" I'm not quite following how that's intended to be used. May 19 '11 at 19:05
• I was looking at the community aspect earlier. I remember a few times wanting to see how an answer had played out...but could find no way to 'PM' the member. RPG are very, very often long term things, so the ability to see how a situation played out would help. Either that or a function for updating a question after the answers have been implemented. May 19 '11 at 19:30
• @LordVreeg It's not much, but if you leave a comment on the question it'll deliver a notification to the user who asked it (assuming the user still visits the site). This seems like a reasonable way to ask for information on how an answer played out in the long term. May 19 '11 at 20:20
• @Ace The range most eloquently described by Gamist-Simulationist-Narrativist... and the approaches brought about to play to those styles. Plus the Rules-light/Rules-heavy divide. And the "Apply simple principles" vs "find a ruling from an authority" mindset. It's much harder to see in a non-socializing setting, but it's pretty well visible in many posts that (for example) you and I are on different sides on many issues. May 20 '11 at 8:07
• @aramis Perhaps I should have done a better job of quoting. My main question is how that clause integrates with the beginning of the sentence... I.e. in what way does the "wide range of gaming styles" limit the site's appeal? May 20 '11 at 13:44
• @ace because people are going to get conflicting answers, driven by the various understandings of gaming, and far too many people downvote without reason being given. It's actively discouraging. (Says the guy with 10K+ rep...) May 20 '11 at 19:29
• @Aramis Are conflicting answers really bad? I've always been fascinated when I see two different takes on a question (barring some annoying corner-cases at the edges; and that's generally as a third party to the question). Is it the conflicting styles that you find unappealing, or their interaction with downvoting? Definitely agree about drive-by downvotes being demoralizing... I try to always at least own my few downvotes. May 20 '11 at 19:43
• The combination of the downvoting and the confusion factor that it can engender is a bad effect. Moreover, it has driven a few good answers into the negatives, where the poster then deleted a good but unpopular answer. May 30 '11 at 7:52
• I think that bringing together different gaming styles and viewpoints is one of the most valuable things about RPG.SE and makes it different from focused forums that end up being style echo-chambers (storygames, dragonsfoot, etc.). But we should discourage people from voting down answers just based on other viewpoints (as long as they're on topic for the question and not "I challenge your premise because I have a different playstyle," which is most of the examples of this I can think of). May 31 '11 at 12:37

I'm only speaking for my own use here. The initial appeal to me was the stack exchange platform. Community moderation, upvoting, etc. Now that I've gotten a taste of it, it's hard for me to go back to a phpbb.

However, once that appeal wore off, I went back to forums. The reason is simple. I'm more interested in discussion than in Q&A. Explaining how mounts work in 4e does not hold my attention. Debating about whether or not fudging is acceptable does keep me interested.

That said, I do enjoy this site. It's just not my primary online source for RPGs.

tl;dr I prefer discussion over Q&A.

• Yes, I think you are correct. There should be a forum part to each question, where discussion about the main points can happen. The Q&A and comments does not fix this problem. Jun 8 '11 at 8:55
• The SO originators have been militantly and consistently against adding any more social or forum element to the system and it's not going to happen, for good or ill. It isn't an either-or, and the intent of SE doesn't have to be "the place you spend all your time." Chat in other places; get focused Q&A here. Jun 9 '11 at 23:33
• @mxyzplk, I'm not expecting to change any minds. I realize that this is Q&A only and that there are plenty of forums out there. What I hadn't realize was that that was an SE decision and not just an rpg.SE one. Jun 10 '11 at 4:07

It has lost its appeal for me too. I had a couple spurts where I thought things were moving slowly so I went through a back catalog of questions and answered any that I thought were interesting. Now, I've caught every question from the start to I guess about 10 days ago that I'm interested in answering. And I find much less reason to come here.

I guess that's one of the things that Stack Exchange has for the rate of new questions being worrying. There isn't enough activity here to sustain people.

There's also a thing with the nature of the site, once there are a certain number of answers for a particular question, there's no longer any point in giving your own. Even if you think you've got an answer that's really good, it'll be drowned out by the already accepted answers, and the 4-6 that have gotten the most upvotes. Even if the question rises to the top because someone just posted something, anyone who clicks on it probably won't see the most recent post. That's something of a problem with the nature of the site.

I also must say that the no rep for questions that become part of the community wiki bugs me to no end. I haven't seen any use to this feature, and it seems anyone with a high enough rep can just tag something community wiki. You can make a good answer, and the reward system that Stack Exchange works with simply gets negated.

• Questions can only be made community wiki by the moderators. If a question is CW, all answers to it will be as well. May 11 '11 at 19:04
• That still doesn't explain the apparent randomness of being made part of the community wiki.
– migo
May 11 '11 at 19:18
• @migo - I'm not explaining it as I am not a moderator here, just correcting your thought that "anyone with a high enough rep" can do it. May 11 '11 at 19:29
• Ah, point taken.
– migo
May 11 '11 at 19:33
• I don't know that we've had more than one or two CW things over the last three months. You may be carrying baggage forward from before the CW changes. May 11 '11 at 20:32
• @migo If you click the timestamp next to the user's name in the list of questions, it'll take you directly to that user's activity in the thread. So new answers to old questions aren't completely invisible. There IS more interest in new questions than old ones, though... Which is why everyone's trying to figure out how best to get more, quality questions. May 11 '11 at 20:34
• Re: Community Wiki. There are two broad reasons for the CW threads being rep-less. The ideal case is one where the answers are frequently updated by many different users. If a question has been heavily edited and maintained by many users (the community) who should get the rep? The choice of the site's maintainers has been nobody. May 11 '11 at 20:38
• The more common case is when a list-style question becomes CW. In this case people want to vote differently: They vote up everything they agree with, and downvote everything they don't instead of upvoting quality answers. The result is low-quality, high-vote answers. Not good for the site. May 11 '11 at 20:40
• Early on, this site was far too eager to move questions to CW land. It sort of became a dumping ground for anything subjective or involving recommendations. This means that some very good questions became CW. And some very bad questions were allowed to survive as CWs because hey, it wasn't like people were gaming rep over them. We're much better about getting this feature right now, but the old problems are still evident if you dredge the archives. May 11 '11 at 20:42

I think this site is valuable for rules questions when the publisher or author is unwilling or unable to provide free answers. It is especially valuable in resolving ambiguous game rules by comparing actual solutions developed by users/customers. Although that is common to fora as well, the voting methodology provides quantifiable feedback to those results (unlike fora, where the dominant voice oft masquerades as a majority).

But it seems to me that the downturn in growth (if any) has produced a trend to ask (and accept and reward) questions which can be easily answered by (a) consulting published rulebooks and/or their cooperative publishers, or (b) any search engine. These perceived problems are part of the cause of my waning interest.

I consider questions in the above two categories to be OT for SE, and a waste of my time, but few agree. Were I setting policy, I'd say "Before you ask a question, try the manufacturer. And this is NOT the right place for research."

Honestly, after looking at the Why lock this question? thread I think maybe we need to replace the mods. Their decision to unilaterally lock the question when members disagreed is a perfect example of the kind of stuff people here have been complaining about, and perhaps having them step down and be replaced with some more open minded mods would do good for the site and make it more appealing to others.

• -1 Replacing the mods because of one disagreement isn't a great policy! It's impossible for them to make everyone happy all the time. May 29 '11 at 21:12
• If you've got something well on the way to getting voted to re-open and the mods are vetoing that, they're overstepping their bounds.
– migo
May 29 '11 at 23:46
• I know that I, and a few others, use the comments others make to improve the answers. If someone makes a useful comment, and I agree, I modify my answer post. Unfortunately, it looks like the only way locking discussion happens is to lock the answer as well... and the locking issue results in no natural discussion, and thus no sense of community. In fact, I've adjusted several old posts today. May 30 '11 at 7:58

I was on here a long time ago and recently decided to drop in and find out how the site is doing. I left originally because I became bored. Unfortunately, I find myself quickly becoming bored again. (Also, there are time constraints, but that's another story.) I guess I should share my reflections on why that may be.

I believe back in the day there was discussion on whether this site should allow discussions. It seemed the majority opinion was that the format was meant to support strictly Q&A activity, and people didn't want it to turn into just another forum with the accompanying infighting. (And now, according to an earlier comment in this thread, it appears that that decision was ultimately an SO decision.) I can certainly understand and appreciate that stance. However, that leads me to why I am not so hopeful for this site right now.

In my mind, tabletop roleplaying isn't like videogaming or writing code. The Q&A format is well geared for those other activities, in which specific, precise information about mechanics is important to success. In tabletop roleplaying, however, the focus is on narrative. Mechanics should (and I assume usually do) take a back seat to the development of story (and I assume experienced gaming here). Mechanics are important, don't get me wrong. But it's the quality of the story and how players are immersed in it that brings about success.

The problem seems to be that something of lesser importance in the hobby has been made the focal point of the site. When addressing a problem we always want to address it with the right tool. A hammer is not the most valuable tool to bring to bear against a leaky faucet, although it might be perfect for other tasks. After browsing the site again for a couple of days, I suspect that an SO format may be the wrong tool to bear when addressing the most important issues that people face when tabletop gaming.

As I write this I start to wonder if anyone here has ever thought about what kind of tool might be best for engagement around tabletop roleplaying. What would the ideal site look like and how would it function? I'm sure there are developers out there who could do it. Are we using the SO system because it is convenient and available? Or is this the format that people think best fits the need? I can't answer those questions for others, but I think it would be a good thing to evaluate what we are trying to do and what might be the best way to go about it.

• There is a difference between "only covering mechanics" and "back and forth discussion." Observe some of the other new SE sites like Parenting (parenting.stackexchange.com/questions). This is an innately subjective topic, but one that is turning into a pretty popular SE - but sticking to the SE format. Jun 22 '11 at 12:10