I've seen this problem many times on this site, but the most recent question, which also incentivized me to write this meta post, is Do effects that activate on a critical hit still activate when the hit is against an opponent wearing adamantine armor?.
It might actually be one of the more valid questions of this kind, but the basic issue is still there in my opinion: someone poses a question that has a simple and straightforward answer, which requires quoting no more than 2-3 non-hidden, straightforward paragraphs to answer. That being said, I have to admit I may have asked such questions myself in the past, but that doesn't make the issue any less relevant.

In the question referenced above it's basically: a) here's adamantine armor, which turns crits into normal hits, and b) here's a feature that activates on crits. Does the feature still get triggered?

The question already includes a quote of the feature b (in this case Great Weapon Master), and the answer basically only adds a quote of the description of adamantine armor, wrapped in an elaborate explanation of the straightforward interpretation. I don't mean to criticize the answer here, there's not really any room for improvement imho.

What bugs me is that this question is answerable by looking at 2 (!) paragraphs in the source books, one for the feat (which OP already quoted) and one for the armor, which I expect OP to have read through if he or she is asking a question about it.

How should we handle this type of question? Since there don't seem to be any close votes, other people don't appear to have noticed a problem with it. Personally, I'm not sure whether it should be closed, and if so, with which closing reason - the existing ones don't really fit, except for "a community-specific reason", which doesn't seem to have been defined yet.

The reason why I think such questions should be closed is that they show either barely any research effort (which is not the case here, OP referenced another question about adamantine armor that doesn't answer this question) or they're sort of a "the books say X, but DO THEY REALLY???" question, where the OP already knows the answer but is hoping for a different one.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @Rubiksmoose thank you for the references! However, I don't think either of the linked meta posts quite answers this issue, as the core of the problem I'm talking about is more of a "please give me something that contradicts what I fear to be true" \$\endgroup\$ Apr 27, 2020 at 18:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ Some questions of this sort arise when the "straightforward/obvious" conclusion from the text is one that is also somewhat illogical or unusual and thus people question whether there's a rule they've missed. There are also questions where the "straightforward" answer is "sensible" and in line with the rest of the rulebook. These are two rather different types of questions; am I correct to assume that this Meta question is about the latter case, where the "clear" conclusion is also "logical"? \$\endgroup\$ Apr 27, 2020 at 19:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ I have edited the question in question on what had me (or rather, another player and DM) tripped up by the ruling. While I can't argue against your judgement of my question (in fact I agree that for most players and DMs it is too simple), I hope you take a look and see the situation I was in when asking it. \$\endgroup\$
    – RallozarX
    Apr 28, 2020 at 5:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ The other issue is: plenty of non native speakers labor with the sometimes clunky prose in the books. Heck, I am a native speaker and I sometimes need to take a second and third look. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 29, 2020 at 12:28

5 Answers 5


Vote, answer, or move on.

Some days I've seen a question like that and downvoted for "lack of effort." Some days I jump right in and derive some joy from helping someone sort out a crease in the game's rules. And some days I just don't have the interest in engaging with one more notch-above-basic-understanding (5e, especially) question.

I do try to keep in mind how spectacularly bad D&D (in particular, given this case) is at explaining/teaching itself. So over the years I've developed the following classification scheme:

  • 0. All the rules needed to answer this question are on one page of a corebook. Often this gets a downvote from me. But often it doesn't: given the organization of D&D--this edition saw EnWorld create its own index, the PHB index is so bad--I can often muster up some sympathy for even this level of question.

  • 1. All the rules needed to answer this question are on one page of something other than a corebook. I don't think I've ever downvoted something like this--all you need s a fellow player doing something in-session that you didn't understand, or your GM telling you that the NPC's a ghostwise halfling and it's very understandable for a querent to end up with a "what-the-what, now?"

  • 2. The rules needed to answer this question draw from more than one page of any products. For me, we're well past downvote-territory, here. There are so many products that not only is it hard to find the right rules to apply, but it takes real expertise to know that there aren't any other rules that you have to worry about interacting! In my mind, any question drawing from more than one page is perfectly deserving of good regard.

Somebody go and write a Mentzer redbox for 5e, already?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Ugh, agreed, D&D5e is so well designed... and so very poorly edited >____< That said, your description of 1 is a little confusing - the DMG is a core rulebook, and we usually try to avoid "read the rules to me" questions even if the rules in question are in a rulebook somebody might not have. Basically, we don't want to be a substitute for people buying the books, only an aid in interpreting them correctly. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 28, 2020 at 1:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yup, you're absolutely right--I used a horrible example. Editing now. \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60 Mod
    Apr 28, 2020 at 2:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SirTechSpec Amen, we had one of those recently where I directed the querent to the free rules at WoTC site since they had no books at all originally. And to nits: heh, Mentzer apparently isn't answering the phone. 8^D \$\endgroup\$ Apr 29, 2020 at 12:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ For reasons surpassing understanding, I just stumbled across the chat conversation where I first was able to formulate this "standard" I use. \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60 Mod
    May 4, 2020 at 15:27

Closure isn't the appropriate response here

You correctly point out that no close reason really fits, and the reason for that is because there's no real issue with that question as the community or SE has defined it thus far that would necessitate closure as the best response for this type of question.

The reason we close questions here is generally, because we can't provide a good and accurate answer that plays nicely within the SE system or if doing so is causing some harm to the community. This can include specifics like not being about RPGs (off topic) or being too opinion-based to fit the SE system. The community also defines the scope of the site, so another, closely-related, reason would be that the community has, for whatever reason, determined that they do not want to answer such questions. Usually that ties back to the first point in that the questions deemed out-of-scope were causing issues.

The issue of being "straightforward" isn't really an issue that warrants closure.

Straightforward is in the eye of the beholder

I would oppose any kind of movement towards making "simple" questions off-topic for many reasons, not least among them is that we would never be able to agree on what "simple" or "straight-forward" means. (I also personally think there is nothing wrong with such questions, at least not wrong enough to disallow them from the site entirely).

What you see as a straightforward question, clearly OP is not seeing the same way (else they would not have put forth the effort to navigate to the site, compose a question, and post it).

Should a question be judged on its level of "expertise"? touches a bit on this, but in essence, to a beginner, very little is straightforward. And experts may see nuances in even simple-seeming questions.

What to do? Downvote and move on.

So you've identified a question that seems to be not useful to you. Since closure isn't an option, you're left with voting. And, in fact, this is the tool that is designed to deal with this exact issue as indicated by the downvoting tool tip:

This question doesn't show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful

  • \$\begingroup\$ Huh, I thought there was something in the guidelines somewhere about a lack of "research effort". I couldn't find it in the wiki article about closing questions, though, so I thought it had been changed or otherwise removed. Turns out I was just looking in the wrong place ^^ \$\endgroup\$ Apr 30, 2020 at 10:11

Nothing...or downvote them.

People can ask pretty much whatever they want. If it's off-topic or any other standard concern, we can close it.

But these questions aren't off-topic. They are just poorly researched to start with. And for me, that's generally a downvote.

If others like them, or are ambivalent, they can upvote or not vote as they see fit.

I do not think there is anything more that we can or should do. Vote as your heart/mind directs you, answer if you feel like it.


The is no such thing as a straightforward answer

Hypothetical questions with clear, straightforward answers don't get asked because the OP can see the clear, straightforward answer. If an OP has taken the time to write the question then they are asking because the answer is not clear and straightforward to them! Hanlon's razor applies.

It's the answerer's task to lead the poor misguided OP to the clear and straightforward answer and share in their John 9:25 epiphany - "I was blind but now I see." Praise be to Stack Exchange!

There are all sorts of reasons why people cannot see what is clear and straightforward to you. For example:

  1. You're wrong. A wise person never overlooks the possibility that they might be totally wrong.
  2. The OP has poor comprehension skills. While clearly all RPGs are written only by the best and most erudite authors ... oh wait, I think I might be falling into the No. 1 reason.
  3. The OP has English as a second language.
  4. The OP is suffering from cognitive dissonance - what they read and understand is at odds with the way they think the world can be. Remember, belief cannot move mountains but it can convince people that the mountains moved even when they didn't.

As others have said; Answer, Down vote, or Ignore

I believe some of this emotion is based on other "stacks".

On the developer-related stackoverflow-side of things you see these types of questions all the time. The, "Do my homework for me," and the "Help me do this thing with no details" style questions. But in those cases, it's very easy to ask, "What have you tried before asking the question?"

Whereas with RPGs, that is not so clear cut. Most questions are "How does this work?" which would indicate a lack of understanding, not a lack of research.

Here's one that astounded me: "By RAW: Do players roll their own die?" It wasn't for lack or research, in fact, it was looking at too many sources that confused the questioner. As I stated in my answer, it is spelled out on the very first page of the SRD and PHB. The question itself got closed for "lack of clarity" as the questioner kinda rambled trying to get sense of it all. But I don't think that was really the issue. There is a very clear-cut answer to the core question. But people were going, "Are you serious?" and shut it down.

So there are going to be questions on here that on the surface seem ridiculous to people that have been around long enough. But if they can be answered, and don't break the rules, then try to answer it. Or just walk away.


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