I've noticed what I consider a trend to include whether or not character choices (Classes, Subclasses, Feats, Qualities, etc) are a "good" choice either in comments or frequently as part of an answer. Sometimes the comment/Answer goes into more detail while other times it is simply labeled a bad idea.

I feel that this often violates the site's principles of objective answering and occasionally even threatens embracing the plurality of gaming styles. I've occasionally brought it up with other members as comments on the posts and I've had mixed results of being accused argumentative (sometimes accurately) and other times resulted in a change.

My area of expertise is Paizo's Pathfinder 1e and 2e, so I can't be sure this extends into other areas of gaming, but I know I've seen it in D&D 3e/3.5 Questions and I believe I've seen it about spell choices in D&D 5e, although I can't remember to cite a specific question.

Has it been established, or can we establish, what qualifies acceptable assertions about GM/player choices in questions about how the potential choice functions?

For clarification, I'm not concerned about Questions that ask about how a choice compares to similar choices; I'm only looking at situations where it wasn't part of the expected answer.

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    \$\begingroup\$ If you ask how to sort a list on SO, you'd be okay with an answer that explained bubble sort and didn't mention that it sucks? \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Mar 2 '20 at 23:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ Going off Carcer's answer (and I have no idea what bubble sort is), I guess it would come down to presentation. I would rather have a good explanation of how to use bubble sort that also suggested a better way of doing it, rather than "bubble sort sucks. Also, here's why. Also, here's how to do it" \$\endgroup\$ – Ifusaso Mar 8 '20 at 21:18

There's nothing inherently wrong with it, but care needs to be taken in how it is presented

Good answers frequently include contextual information above and beyond what is directly asked by the question, including analysis about the relative merits and value of rules and options in question. The additional information helps the querent make fully informed choices about what they're doing.

/ and especially are game systems which are notorious for being poorly balanced and flush with trap options which simply make a character worse than they should be, and because those systems were very popular and have been around for a long time, we have many experts who have discovered these things the hard way. It'd be kind of cruel not to warn a player about that if they appear to be naively considering taking those options. It's then entirely up to that player whether or not they still take those choices - they're in the best place to know how well-optimised their particular table needs characters to be, and whether or not being mechanically sub-par will impact their enjoyment - but that decision will at least be a somewhat more informed one.

From the other direction, I don't think we see it happen as often, but it also seems reasonable to warn querents when they're considering options which might be mechanically very powerful but are, in practice, not much fun to play. That's an even more subjective detail than the mechanical balance is, but when the opinion is well-informed by experience/expertise, it still adds value to the answer.

I suspect what you're mostly finding to be an issue is the presentation of these analyses in answers/comments, since it is easy to accidentally come across as condescending, or as insinuating that the querent is foolish or stupid for considering these options, especially for some of our users who have a naturally more curt/brusque writing style. Unfortunately, one user's straightforward matter-of-fact explanation is often another user's unnecessarily harsh critique. I'm not really sure what the best way to deal with that is, but I'm pretty confident the problem is not really in the content but the delivery.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 all around: part of the expertise many of our answerers are poised to offer are judgments on the relative merits of build-choices. As for what the best way to deal with poor presentation, I think the tools we have generally do okay: comment advising a poster that their tone's coming across how they (hopefully) didn't intend, ask for a sanity-check in chat, flag if it's egregious, &c. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Mar 3 '20 at 1:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ Contextual factual information is completely different from opinions. I'm not sure I agree with the conclusion here, though i like some of your points. \$\endgroup\$ – nijineko Mar 7 '20 at 16:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ Exactly. When I'm looking through RPG questions for something, I tend to find answers that compare an option's worth to other options to be useful. Even if I go with the "worse" one, I tend to have a better understanding of its strengths and flaws than I would from an answer that looked solely at the mechanics and facts. \$\endgroup\$ – Justin Time - Reinstate Monica Mar 10 '20 at 17:52

For what it’s worth, in many cases, I consider it unacceptable to leave such information unstated. Tone, keeping tangents to a minimum, and so on are certainly all considerations, and serve as back-pressure to encourage limits on how much of it appears, but there are many times where I feel that something must be said. In extreme cases, I would even downvote an otherwise-excellent answer that failed to do so.

And that is all because the value we offer is expertise.

Being able to wiggle through quasi-legalistic rules language is often not the most important thing, even when that’s what we’re asked to do. It takes some expertise to do it, certainly, but it doesn’t require that much expertise most of the time. The real value of our expertise is perspective. Knowing the breadth and depth of the system and being able to put things in context. Failing to provide that context when it’s relevant can be—in extreme cases, I’m not talking about most answers as I tend to do with my own—a disservice to the querent.

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    \$\begingroup\$ If by we you mean all contributors, then I think that you overstate the case, in your core assertion "the value we offer is expertise." But I up voted your answer because I sincerely support your general point, and perhaps because I wish it were so. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Mar 7 '20 at 0:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast We, as in the site as a whole. The idea is that there will be someone with expertise to answer a given question. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Mar 7 '20 at 0:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ OK, that makes sense. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Mar 7 '20 at 1:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ While I agree expertise (specifically because of its root in experience) is a valuable resource we provide, I don't agree that it merits purporting our own views as part of an answer about how things work. Sometimes it is necessary (why I'm supporting Carcer's answer over this one, personally) but other times it feels like we push the community toward conforming with the playstyle we're accustomed to. \$\endgroup\$ – Ifusaso Mar 8 '20 at 21:16

If "Opinion-Based" is a valid reason for closing a question, then that is also a valid reason for likewise treating any opinion-based answers the exact same way.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I hope I'm not rehashing a discussion already resolved in the comments of that other answer when I ask the following: Is this answer advocating that the community (by voting) or a moderator should simply delete any and all opinion-based answers? (Whatever the case, so far as I'm aware, answers can't be closed, so this answer could benefit from some clarity about the desired result.) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan May 3 '20 at 10:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ Answers literally cannot be treated the exact same way, because they're not questions and cannot be closed. Please propose a specific viable course of action. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener May 4 '20 at 0:11

I am completely against opinions in answers unless opinions were specifically and explicitly solicited...

...by the question, the clarifying comments by the author, or the text accompanying the question; in which specific cases, I'm totally fine with it.

When not specifically solicited, I feel that it detracts from the quality of the answer, is not factual, is not objective, is manipulative, and skews the site answers towards the emotional, and not in a beneficial way.

I recall several times across the stacks seeing a wrong answer selected because it was emotionally satisfying, or a factual answer bombed with downvotes due to unpopularity even though it was technically accurate, answers with a unique perspective bombed with downvotes because it was not mainstream, and I also recall seeing answers upvoted with large numbers, but a small vote answer was ultimately selected because it was more technically correct, and the other opinionated answers, while much more popular, were thereby less accurate.

It does highlight these unfortunate fact that "the right answers are NOT at the top" to paraphrase a quote.

In any case, I usually (but not always) downvote such answers as being inferior in quality as opinions detract from the value of the information, usually manage to come across as manipulative, dismissive, and spend more time proving their point than actually answering the question... and they frequently fail to consider the complete historical context of the game or component in question (this last is especially relevant to Dungeons and Dragons).

To be fair, there are a rare few I don't downvote, because I found the opinion interesting, or it opened my eyes to a new view or angle, or it was humorous. So that is a thing.

On the other hand, presenting facts about opinions is different, I feel. Noting that certain communities, especially subject matter experts, have found that certain combinations of rules result in given possible end results, or that a given point or rules combo is highly contested along with a brief, factual description of the debate without the opinion of the poster of the answer IS valuable information that allows the reader to make informed decisions.

(I am adding examples as I find them going forward. )

Supporting comment by another poster:

As mentioned in the comment by Interstellar Probe to this answer, and I paraphrase, "separating fact from belief is extremely difficult when researching a topic..." and this is true of this (and every stack) where high reputation individuals' opinions are often mistaken for facts.

Here is another example, by KRyan, no less, who strongly disagreed with my answer in the comments: https://rpg.stackexchange.com/a/166543/30200

At the time this answer was posted, it contained literally no reference to the actual D&D rules regarding diagonal movement, instead offering nothing but opinions.

How is that even considered a valid answer, when it doesn't even reference the rulebooks, or the existing rules on diagonal movement? This sort of answer is very non helpful, and detracts from the value of this site, in my opinion.

Please note this reference is not a slam on KRyan personally, who is very knowledgable, but a slam on both that specific answer as it was posted at the time I edited this question, and on the concept of opinionated answers in general.

I offer somewhat ironic thanks to KRyan for providing me with an example to support my answer here.

For the intent of preserving an example, and in compliance with the site (don't link, quote the info) concept, here is a copy of the answer:

As is common in D&D 3.5e, I am referring to “squares” when I really mean “cubes.” Just take “square” as game jargon, which it is in this case.

Anyway, so the “5-ft., 10-ft.” is an approximation of having diagonals cost \$1.5\times\$ the distance, which itself is an approximation of having them cost \$\sqrt{2}\times \approx 1.414\times\$ (Pythagorean theorem says a right angle with \$a\$ for the legs will have a hypotenuse of \$\sqrt{2}\times a\$).

A “double diagonal” will be the hypotenuse of a right angle with legs of \$a\$ and \$\sqrt{2}\times a\$, so the hypotenuse will be \$\sqrt{3}\times a\$, so we need an approximation of \$\sqrt{3}\times \approx 1.732\times\$. If we round that to \$1.75\times\$, we need “5-ft., 10-ft., 10-ft., 10-ft.” (so moving four squares costs 35 ft. of movement—\$1.75\times\$ the 20 ft. it would usually take.

Obviously, “5-ft., 10-ft., 10-ft., 10-ft.” is a pain, and also it’s much more questionable to start with 5 ft. on the first square than it was for the “5-ft., 10-ft.” scheme. It’s also less clear how to combine it with “single diagonal” movement in the same turn—you probably shouldn’t be able to go 5 ft. for a double diagonal square and then move on a single diagonal for another 5 ft.

The most accurate way to resolve this is to imagine the “5-ft., 10-ft.” rule as actually being “7.5-ft.” every time—then it’s really “7.5 feet (rounded to 5 feet), 15 feet (rounded to 15 feet, so 10 feet beyond the first).” For the double-diagonals, we’re looking at 8.75-ft, which is still rounded down to 5 feet the first time, and then 17.5 feet (rounded to 15 feet total distance), 26.25 feet (25 feet), 35 feet (35 feet).

Maybe easier to see in tabular form. Here, \$d\$ is the actual, unrounded distance, \$\lfloor d \rfloor\$ for the rounded distance, and \$\Delta \lfloor d \rfloor\$ for the cost of the latest step. Each step should cost what’s listed as \$\Delta \lfloor d \rfloor\$.

\begin{array}{c|c|c} \textbf{Straight Line} & \textbf{Single Diagonal} & \textbf{Double Diagonal} \\ { \begin{array}{c c c} d & \lfloor d \rfloor & \Delta \lfloor d \rfloor \\ \hline \phantom{0}5 & \phantom{0}5 & 5 \\ 10 & 10 & 5 \\ 15 & 15 & 5 \\ 20 & 20 & 5 \\ \end{array} } & { \begin{array}{c c c} d & \lfloor d \rfloor & \Delta \lfloor d \rfloor \\ \hline \phantom{0}7.5 & \phantom{0}5 & \phantom{0}5 \\ 15\phantom{.0} & 15 & 10 \\ 22.5 & 20 & \phantom{0}5 \\ 30\phantom{.0} & 30 & 10 \\ \end{array} } & { \begin{array}{c c c} d & \lfloor d \rfloor & \Delta \lfloor d \rfloor \\ \hline \phantom{0}8.75 & \phantom{0}5 & \phantom{0}5 \\ 17.5\phantom{0} & 15 & 10 \\ 26.25 & 25 & 10 \\ 35\phantom{.00} & 35 & 10 \\ \end{array} } \end{array}

Combining single and double diagonals then becomes possible by leveraging those fractions—7.5-ft. + 8.75-ft. is 16.25 feet, so the second step when moving single-diagonal then double-diagonal is going to cost 10-ft, but the 1.25 feet “extra” is less than the 2.5 feet “extra” from two double-diagonal moves. By tracking that extra you can keep track of how far a character has actually moved.

And if you actually bother with this mess, I salute you, because this is insane. Unfortunately, yeah, this is the reality of 3D movement in D&D 3.5e. I strongly recommend a gentleman’s agreement to just keep things grounded, or houserule in some form of abstract flight—here’s mine.

This final comment, "... this is the reality of 3D movement in D&D 3.5" appears to be a statement of fact. This might cause a reader to consider this opinion to be a fact, and in fact, the rules of D&D.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Nice! Already downvoted! Anyone able to tell me why? No comments? No suggestions for improvement? Bueller? \$\endgroup\$ – nijineko Mar 7 '20 at 16:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ I did not downvote but I am vehemently against the idea that opinions are not valuable information. An experienced person, able to answer a complicated question, has opinions given their prior experience. I agree that stating opinion as fact is wrong, but that's completely different. You seem to be saying you dislike a very specific way of including opinions in answers and then saying it applies to nearly all things. Additionally, at least to me, nearly every single answer is filled with opinion. What you decide to discuss and deem important, etc... We aren't purely objective people \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Mar 7 '20 at 18:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ Continuing on... Humans are very emotional and illogical, despite anything they may want to believe and I believe that trying to curate the world into an objective, opinion-less place will hurt far more than it could help. Especially in a social location, including Stack. I suppose my "argument" is that opinion adds to the quality of answer by making it human and allowing answers to be individuated and reflect each person's own experiences and depth of knowledge. That all said, this may just come from a difference in what counts as "opinion" since to me nearly everything ever is opinion \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Mar 7 '20 at 18:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @medix2 Thank you for your insight! \$\endgroup\$ – nijineko Mar 9 '20 at 12:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ A downvote without a comment often implies that no, there are no suggestions for improvement—that the only improvement the voter could imagine is simply deleting the answer. It indicates complete disagreement, on which there is no available compromise, and there is no reason to say so—it would only lead to arguing. Users are encouraged to not comment in such situations. It should be no surprise given my own answer that I’ve downvoted this one, because I strongly and completely disagree with your opinion. (Also, note that on Meta, votes are often used for “agree”/not more than “helpful”/not.) \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Mar 9 '20 at 17:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ The problem with this approach is that, while facts can be presented about how well a given option meets the asker's specifications, they say nothing about how well a given option will compare to other, similar options, nor do they address the enjoyability of a given option. Considering the nature of the media, this makes opinions extremely important for presenting the full picture, provided they're presented well. \$\endgroup\$ – Justin Time - Reinstate Monica Mar 10 '20 at 17:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ And that's part of my point, opinions are often mistaken or lazily taken for facts, thus are NOT well presented. \$\endgroup\$ – nijineko Mar 11 '20 at 12:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ As someone who spent time in Academia, I'm not sure I agree with the comment about the difficulty of separating fact from fiction. That IS what research is about. And often theses start with an opinion that then must be supported by facts. If it's not supported, then the data isn't proving the thesis. It's fairly obvious when I did research as to what I was able to find support for and what I didn't. Or if I didn't agree with the reasons for why the facts supposedly supported an idea (for whatever of many various possible reasons.) \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Mar 11 '20 at 14:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast people do that? See other parts of my answer which addresses your comment. Also, I had zero intent to rant. My comment you quoted was a factual observation. I don't see much point to ranting on this site, that would be an expression of emotion which while subjectively valid, simply comes across as an opinion to others which would fall under my criticism as an non valuable opinion... which is kinda the exact point I'm making? \$\endgroup\$ – nijineko Mar 12 '20 at 13:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Everyone Also, please do note my support for opinions in answers inherent in my answer. \$\endgroup\$ – nijineko Mar 12 '20 at 13:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ When quoting questions or answers, it’s best to go into the Edit screen for that question or answer, and copy the source and put your > for each paragraph. The table here takes some care (just one > at the beginning of the whole thing), but otherwise it preserves the quoted material better. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Mar 20 '20 at 13:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, your example isn’t a good example at all—because it was never written as opinion. I wrote it intending that it simply be accurate to the rules, which I believe it is, as much as one can be in such an under-defined situation. You may think I am wrong, but it’s not the same thing as me offering an opinion. It has nothing to do with this meta discussion, and frankly your analysis here comes off as a rant that people don’t agree with your perception and analysis. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Mar 20 '20 at 13:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nijineko: The linked answer (now) quotes the rules on measuring diagonals, which is the source of the "alternating between 5 feet and 10 feet" approach (given for 2D diagonals)... You're right that he didn't explicitly mention them originally. But as for the formulas, those are just mathematical formulas for calculating the hypotenuse of a triangle; that has nothing to do with opinion. The only part of the quoted version of KRyan's answer that's opinion-based is the last paragraph, which contains his conclusion (note: he did come to a different conclusion in a later revision of the answer). \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Mar 22 '20 at 1:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nijineko The window for editing comments is brief; after that you can’t. Anyway, challenging the answer was valuable (thanks), but it still has nothing to do with opinion. It was simply honestly what I thought was the most true-to-the-rules answer available. Being wrong isn’t remotely the same as pushing an opinion. Lacking citations is also not the same as pushing an opinion—if I had said that it was “5, 10” from the beginning without citation, I would be what you consider factually correct, but there still wouldn’t be a citation. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Mar 24 '20 at 16:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ There were problems with the answer (suggestion was not a good one, citations demonstrating the lack-of-rule I asserted were missing), but none of those problems were with pushing any opinion, unless you want to call my rejection of the rule you quote as applying to the 3D case—in which case your answer is exactly as bad in exactly the same way, because you’re just as much “pushing the opinion” that it does cover that case. And at this point, my answer addresses that rule and goes into detail on why I think it doesn’t address this situation, while yours just asserts—without evidence—it does. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Mar 24 '20 at 16:56

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