A common issue I've seen on stackexchange in general, and which appears to have happened here on rpg.se, is a question is closed because the moderators imagined they knew what the answer would be and then closed the thread.

There are a handful of potential answers to the question "Which magus build is stronger, dex-based or strength-based?":

  1. The Strength-based build will be stronger for reasons X.
  2. The Dexterity-based build will be stronger for reason Y.
  3. At levels XYZ strength will be stronger, at levels ABC dex will be stronger.
  4. The two builds optimized properly are of roughly the same strength, each with their own pros and cons, and it will depend on the specifics of the campaign and party to make a firm determination. Here are a list of pros and cons.

If the answer were 1 or 2 (or possibly 3), the question should not be closed. This is easy to illustrate: which Fighter build is stronger - a Strength-based build or a Wisdom-based build? The answer is clearly "Strength". If I had asked that question, I would've gotten a straight forward answer and the question would have been a success.

It appears that the moderators have determined that the answer is #4, and closed the question.

The nature of the two questions are identical. The only difference is that one has a very clear answer while the moderators believe the other does not. This isn't due to the question being vague, but rather due to the moderators believing that the answer is 'it depends' without ever subjecting that answer to the voting process.

This seems wrong-headed to me. I think the question is answerable as written and I suspect the answer will be something to the effect of #4 above "Roughly balanced in terms of strength, so it comes down to priorities, specifics, and preferences."

If that is the answer, then it's the sort of answer that someone can provide, listing the general pros and cons of the two different ideas.

Then maybe someone else can come along and say "Actually, no. I have played this class extensively and I can say definitively that the best build is dex-based for reasons X, Y, and Z"

Then both answers would be subject to the voting process and there will be knowledge added to the community.

What happened here, instead, was that the moderators made a determination about what they believed the answer to be, and then closed the thread based on what they believed the answer would be. That doesn't seem appropriate to me. This is an answerable question that is not opinion based; we should let someone answer it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ FYI, those aren't moderators that voted to close, but members the community. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Feb 10, 2020 at 18:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ Thank you, I will edit the post accordingly. This isn't a criticism of the moderators or the members. It is a criticism of a process. \$\endgroup\$
    – JoshuaD
    Commented Feb 10, 2020 at 18:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ Is there a common term for non-moderator members who are acting as moderators in this limited way? I understand that "moderator" has a special meaning here, but calling these people simply "members" isn't accurate either. They are acting in a moderative capacity here. \$\endgroup\$
    – JoshuaD
    Commented Feb 10, 2020 at 18:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ Calling folks who can vote to put a question on hold users with appropriate privileges is clumsy but gets the message across. (I prefer to be called a contributor rather than a user, but that gets even clumsier.) By the way, I didn't vote to put the question on hold, but I think the question could be clearer on what mechanically stronger means in context. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 10, 2020 at 18:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JoshuaD on the terminology front: I try to be pretty consistent saying "elected moderators" and "community moderators" (or, occasionally, "high-rep users") when distinguishing among who's doing the moderation actions. I've no idea whether it communicates the distinction well =\ \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60 Mod
    Commented Feb 10, 2020 at 19:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for discussion; this extensive conversation largely about whether "tier" or "mechanically stronger" is a useful metric has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60 Mod
    Commented Feb 11, 2020 at 0:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ Closing by assumption of the answer does happen, but as far as I can tell that question was closed because no one was sure what "stronger" means. If you care only about DPR or only about utility, that's one thing. But if we sacrifice 20% DPR for 15% more utility, does that make the build "stronger"? That's the reason why it was closed, difficulty in establishing what makes a good answer. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 11, 2020 at 6:25

3 Answers 3


The points everyone else has made are good, but I'll add one more:

Experts closing questions because they are familiar with what the answer would be and/or what it would involve to make an excellent stack-appropriate answer, is generally good and expected as long as the close reasons are valid.

In this case, experts looked at your question, determined that in order to give an actual answer that they would need more details, and then voted to close while we waited for those details. That's how we expect the system to work and we consider that to be good.

Specifically, experts in this case decided that "Your answer depends on lots of variables that you haven't given us" wasn't a satisfying or useful answer to give and that we should be aiming to provide actual answers (which require more information).

RPG.SE's Q&A format excels at giving specific answers to real, specific, well-defined problems. Questions that aren't that do better at other places.


Issues with the linked question:

As I see it, the problem with the linked question is that it's not clear what would make a good or bad answer to the question, nor what would make one answer better or worse than another. The criteria for making those determinations aren't defined in the question. That responses are possible is irrelevant, and a standard like "internally consistent" isn't a high bar to clear.

It's not that different from asking a question about what Rogue build is best, but failing to state which game or edition the question relates to. Answerers can certainly offer an answer from some arbitrarily chosen game and edition, but it's not clear why that would be better than the question itself indicating that information and getting a more focused answer.

An optimized build for D&D 3.5e might be totally different than for 5e, and so each could be equally correct for its assumptions, without any way for one to be a better answer for the question than another. If the question is about which optimized Rogue build is best across all D&D editions, answerers will need some common set of criteria to compare to arrive at an answer. A question should make clear what it is asking.

SE is not great for discussions. Chat is an option, though.

What you seem to be suggesting here is that each answerer write an answer that is specifically not providing a direct answer to the question, but instead makes an argument for why their working definition of "stronger" is the correct one, and then that their strategy correctly optimizes for that definition.

That's a fine discussion to have! But that's just the thing-- it's a discussion, not an answer that clearly resolves a specific question. The SE format handles discussions poorly. There just isn't enough opportunity for responding back and forth to resolve the ambiguity which the question, at this point, is explicitly refusing to define. That can make questions less useful to future visitors. It can also attract lower-quality answers, which we prefer to avoid where possible.

Really big, expansive questions can be problematic.

If an adequately argued, complete answer to the question requires several pages of description, along with exceptions and conditional cases, it may be too broad to fit the SE format. If there are a dozen scenarios which might affect how "strongest" is defined, it might be better to have a dozen questions each covering one of those so that each answer can have a chance at being clear and concise.

Asking that answerers address every possible explanation of "strongest" or "optimized" fits into the "really big, expansive" category for me (and apparently for other users as well). And that is what this question demands, as each answerer would need to justify their asserted definition as the right one even before laying out their proposed strategies for optimizing for that definition. That's a lot of work, both for answerers to write and for future visitors to read, and fits poorly with the Q&A framework of the site.

The sum of two good, independent questions isn't necessarily a good question.

What is the build that offers the highest consistent DPR for a magus, one based on Str or one based on Dex? is a more focused question. What is the build that avoids or negates the highest average damage for a magus, one based on Str or Dex? is also a more focused question.

But if they are simply combined, some problems might arise. If there is a tradeoff to be made between higher DPR and greater damage evasion or negation, which of those should be preferred? If we're trying to optimize for both at once, that's not clear. If you know how you want that tradeoff to be evaluated, you can explain it in the question. If you're not sure, then yet another good question might be Which is more valuable to a magus: higher DPR or greater damage evasion/negation?

I don't see much benefit in forcing that sort of information to be undefined assumptions in an answer versus the focus of a specific question. Again, that might be a great starting point for a discussion, but this isn't a discussion forum.

Optimization questions in particular suffer when insufficiently defined.

There are a lot of factors which might affect what an optimized result is. Optimization itself tends to make use of very precise information, and so can be sensitive to changes in underlying assumptions. It may matter if a campaign takes place mostly underwater, or on another plane of existence.

Decisions you make about how your character develops might change whether or not a given strategy will work, which could be hard to appreciate without taking those developments into consideration. Are you intending to tank damage for your party? That sort of decision matters a lot, and there are many possibilities that an answerer would need to consider to answer in the general case.

Your character's access to certain items or equipment, or the types of enemies they encounter, might render entire strategies suboptimal or irrelevant even if they might be optimal in circumstances you aren't dealing with.

Even this meta question seems to define what you're looking for more clearly than the actual question: a framework for evaluating which approach is better, and which you can apply to any specific game situation. Such an answer does not seem, to me, to be an optimization.

If, as you state, the answer you're expecting is

"Roughly balanced in terms of strength, so it comes down to priorities, specifics, and preferences."

I don't understand why it would not be acceptable to include some of the priorities, specifics, and preferences you might have in mind in the question itself. That sort of information would define the question in a way that allows for more focused, directly comparable answers. If character tier is the standard you want to use, the question could be changed to be something like What is the highest tier that can be reached by a magus based on Str versus Dex?

Or, alternatively, if "it's based on priorities, specifics, and preferences" is the kind of answer you want a better question might be something along the lines of Under what conditions would a Str-based magus outperform a Dex-based magus for measures A, B, and C?. That might run into trouble due to being opinion-based (how can answerers directly compare preferences?), but at least the dimensions of the question would be better defined.


This question was closed by community votes not moderators. It is also not for the reason you are imputing to them.

Optimization questions require a clear goal to address - "mechanically stronger" isn't a thing. Check out Are character build or optimization questions on topic? for how to ask an optimization question that's not too vague.

While there may be some very basic cases in which the question proposes a dichotomy where one option is worse in every conceivable way, that is very unusual. In this case, a DEX magus versus a STR magus - a magus by its nature has various things it does. DEX makes them better at ray spells and such (and higher AC, and skills...). STR makes them better at whacking things. Depending on your goals, archetypes, etc. Even in fighters, some want high AC and to tank and others want to be like a barbarian and just throw damage. Which is "better?" Depends on what you're looking for. Pirate swashbuckler magus? Answer might be different than "tank melee magus."

Rather than play infinite guessing games, we prefer to put a question on hold, clarify that OP's goals, then reopen so that answers can be helpful and on topic. That is unlikely to change. Instead, consider adding the modest amount of appropriate criteria to your question.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The argument about "tiers"/"mechanically stronger", continued from the question post, doesn't seem to have any aim of improving/understanding mxy's answer. So I've deleted it. Those who want to continue hashing out the matter please use the chat room. \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60 Mod
    Commented Feb 11, 2020 at 0:48

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