There is a category of questions on this site that seriously pollutes our scope. Taking these questions to their logical maximum (which I see us continually approaching) everything under the sun has become on topic.

This category is campaign research. Appending , , or the sentence "this is for research on my campaign" seems to give a user carte blanc to ask whatever historical, geographical or technological question they choose, all in the name of "campaign research" with no barrier to entry of relevance or mechanics, or even any real bearing on the RP experience of the group.

Most of these questions could be asked on a history or nature site with little change in wording and be completely on topic. They are hardly relevant specifically to RP and are likely largely irrelevant to actual play.

What purpose do they serve here?

I realize there are numerous games that are set in historical time periods, but are your players clamoring so desperately for accuracy that you have to have it exactly right? And both and have some great questions in them. But a lot of the questions in both of those tags have very little to do with RPGs in any specific sense and a lot more to do with history in the general sense.

Part of the problem is that they are often way to broad to begin with. Trying to get a general sense of an entire decade for a CoC game in one question is probably a little much, wouldn't it be much better to hit up Wikipedia or another primary source to find out what kind of events and tech were there? We aren't here to be your research assistant.

Medieval travel times might be useful in certain settings, but again, can't you research how fast you can walk, ride a horse, sail an old boat?

Last but not least. Since this was last discussed site wide nearly 2 years ago, an SE for history has entered beta, it seems to me, that if these folks were willing to answer questions about ancient (and more modern) history it might serve as a better home for many of these questions. And quite frankly, if they consider questions like the ones we have not-constructive or off-topic, that should be a strong indication that we should go that direction.

The purpose of this question is to reopen the discussion from Are campaign research questions on topic? now that 2 years have passed and we have graduated.

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Aw, I liked the original title. It nicely captured the slippery slope that we've discovered. –  SevenSidedDie Jul 27 '12 at 17:30
    
Cute for those engaged in the discussion now, useless for people coming to figure out site policy later. –  mxyzplk Jul 27 '12 at 19:03
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BTW it wouldn't hurt for meta questions trying to get a referendum to clearly state their answer at the top - we have a lot of walls of text here where it's not obvious how to extract your tangible answer to the question from... See mine for an example –  mxyzplk Jul 27 '12 at 19:14
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6 Answers 6

up vote 26 down vote accepted

A Summary: What to do

  1. Have a meta-discussion to decide on what wording to use for step 2 before amending our FAQ.

  2. Add a section to our FAQ defining what is on topic or off topic.

    My second draft of the wording (that I'm still not completely satisfied with):

    Question about a general real-world topic such as history, geography or economics, whilst relevant to RPGs, may be off topic if they are not RPG-centric (or better belong on another Stack Exchange site, such as History). A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself …

    Would an RPG expert give me a better/different/more specific answer to this question than a Historian, Geographer, etc?

    If yes, then feel free to ask it here.

  3. Close non-RPG-centric questions as off topic, or migrate them to a more suitable SE Site.

    For an example of what would be on or off topic, see the end of this post. If we don't do this, we become the one stop shop for anything that could be used in a campaign but which has nothing really to do with RPGs, which is the entire problem that generated this topic in the first place.

    I sympathise that this might be harsh, because whilst we do have a History site, there is not yet a Geography Stack Exchange site, but if we don't then we get our current predicament as a result.

  4. Trial the above amendment and be willing to make changes to the wording.

    I am sure those present here understand the spirit of the above amendment, but I am also sure that if our wording isn't great then there will be people going by the letter and misunderstanding the spirit.

    We should keep an eye out for when questions might seem off topic by the letter of the amendment, and yet are on topic by its spirit, and reword the amendment accordingly.


We are not the first ones going down this path.

Game Development.SE had this problem a while ago. Game Development is a very wide topic, and as such, ended up with questions on a lot of very different topics: animation, art, programming, physics, networking, web development, mathematics, sound, and so on.

In summary, their problem was this: A whole lot of topics which could be asked elsewhere, and many questions which should, but all these topics genuinely relate to Game Development! How do we decide what's on topic and what isn't!?

Our problem is this (seem familiar?): Topics like history, geography, boat speeds - many of which can be asked elsewhere, and many questions which should, but all these topics genuinely relate to RPGs! How do we decide what's on topic and what isn't!?

Game Development.SE's solution

The biggest question for them was about which programming questions are off topic and which aren't, and they discussed that and came to a pretty decent conclusion. Likewise our main problem areas seem to be history, geography, and other topics which are just asking about the state of the world at a certain point in time.

I can get the best wording by directly quoting Game Development.SE's FAQ, where it's specific to programming:

General programming questions more likely belong on Stack Overflow instead of here. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself …

Would a professional game developer give me a better/different/more specific answer to this question than other programmers?

If yes, then feel free to ask it here. For more discussion on that topic, see this question on our meta site.

(Note: the "this question" link is the discussion I linked at the beginning of this section)

Our solution, from learning from Game Development.SE

Questions asking about a general real-world topic such as history, geography or economics might more likely belong on another Stack Exchange site (e.g. History) than here. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself …

Would an RPG expert give me a better/different/more specific answer to this question than a Historian, Geographer, etc?

If yes, then feel free to ask it here.

The wording is rough, but my intention is this: for a given question, would asking it on an RPG board give you a different, better or more specific answer than you could get by asking it elsewhere?

To consider briefly some questions:

  • Middle age transportation by river questions

    Off topic. You could ask a Historian or a boat expert this question and they would give you the exact and correct answer. Nothing is gained from asking an RPG player specifically. There is nothing RPG-specific about the question and nothing RPG-specific about an answer.

  • Which technologies/commodities were available during the 30s in the USA?

    Off topic. The accepted answer has nothing RPG-specific about it and would be perfectly at home on History.SE. There is no RPG-specific information being asked for, either - the player just wants to learn history. If you were to snip out mention of the fact it's for DMing a Trails of Cthulhu game, it would be the exact same question.

    Note that by contrast, What do I need to change about Call of Cthulhu to set it in the 60s? is on topic because it is directly intertwined with an RPG setting and a historian cannot answer this question decently.

  • What are some dangerous non-fantasy creatures?

    On topic! Even though this can be answered by a Zoologist, take a look at the answers. These answers are something more specific to the topic of RPGs than any zoologist could provide. gomad answers the question from the point of view of what a wolf or boar could do to a group of adventurers or hunters, and who cares if wolves don't typically attack people? Other answers to a lesser degree consider things like:

    • What would it be fun to fight?
    • What is relevant to an adventure?
    • What impact could the animals have on some fighters?
    • What animals can be made dangerous and how? 500 rats, leeches (either giant or in large quantities), etc.

    A zoologist might not even list wolves because they're not prone to attacking people or consider leeches since they can be easily removed with some salt. To get similar answers from a theoretical Zoology Stack Exchange site, you'd have to ask: "If I were to put on some armour and grab a sword and throw myself into the most dangerous circumstances possible and fight some animals alongside some friends, what would be some great animals to aggravate and which would possibly kill me?" The idea of 500 rats or a bunch of leeches (or giant) leeches might not even come up before the question would be inevitably closed as nonsense.

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Yes! This is excellent. We should focus more on how to get good questions (i.e., standards & FAQ revision) than on principles or guidelines for closing. Better to never get the question in the first place than to have to close or migrate it. –  SevenSidedDie Jul 26 '12 at 4:17
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Excellent, this is exactly the line we should draw, keeping the RPG relevant content even if it draws from external skills/knowlege, while rejecting questions that are not RPG centric. –  C. Ross Jul 26 '12 at 12:55
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I've accepted this answer because it's exactly what we should be shooting for here. A good clear line of what is actually on and and off topic and how questions should be phrased to get them on topic. –  wax eagle Jul 26 '12 at 14:09
    
Hopefully one of the mods can go edit the FAQ to include the proposed section. –  Oblivious Sage Jul 26 '12 at 15:58
    
The wording's a draft. It's written for situations where there's another SE - but it's not clear what should be done for, say, geography or economics (which don't have SE sites) questions which just aren't RPG-centric. –  Jonathan Hobbs Jul 26 '12 at 23:07
    
@JonathanHobbs It's still good wording even lacking a fitting destination SE. The important part is the question in the middle that askers and voters can judge topicality by. –  SevenSidedDie Jul 27 '12 at 5:54
    
I agree with your general rules in the answer, though disagree on one of the four examples (boat travel). But +1 anyway! –  mxyzplk Jul 27 '12 at 16:28
    
@mxyzplk I think the boat travel one could be on or off topic depending on how it was written. If it asked for game sources that have dealt with it, for example, it would be on-topic. As it is, it's better answered by history.SE. That might be an argument for aggressively rewriting some seemingly off-topic questions, though sometimes we can't do that without reading the asker's mind. –  SevenSidedDie Jul 27 '12 at 17:35
    
Actually as a subtle note - I agree with the game dev approach "you should ask..." but Jonathan then states it a little more harshly as "we should migrate..." I agree with the former but not the latter. –  mxyzplk Jul 27 '12 at 19:08
    
@mxyzplk I never actually mentioned migration. I was judging whether things were on or off topic as a demonstration of what this policy means. The practice on GameDev is, however, to migrate general and non-gamedev-related programming questions to Stack Overflow, because that's where they belong and keeping them on GameDev would cloud the site's scope to no longer be about GameDev (which is the root cause of the very problem we are currently discussing). –  Jonathan Hobbs Jul 28 '12 at 0:22
    
Would you mind summing up your actual actionable answer at the top of your post? –  mxyzplk Aug 2 '12 at 3:39
    
@mxyzplk I've done that now. –  Jonathan Hobbs Aug 2 '12 at 13:25
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Settings questions (of which historical questions are a subset) are... Interesting. At first it seems extremely simple: RPG settings go on RPG.SE, non-RPG settings go elsewhere.

But the corner cases get really ugly:

  • What about a setting like Star Wars? It certainly began as a movie, but most of the trivia that would be featured in a settings-style question (how many people it takes to crew a Star Destroyer, for example) were written by West End Games for their RPG product, or derived from those RPG sources.

  • What about a setting that defaults to history, like the World of Darkness?

  • What about a setting like 7th Sea that explicitly tells you to look things up in non-fiction works as part of the game's systems?

  • For that matter, what about settings such as Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance that were based on an RPG, but received most of their initial development in the form of novels, comics, games, and other non-RPG media?

I think there is a strong case to be made for banning all non-design settings questions as off-topic. Send D&D, Star Wars and its ilk to Sci-Fi, historical settings to history, and so on.

But at this time I don't see a good way to single out historical-settings in any fair manner.

With that said, there are a few guidelines that I think we should be following in voting on it:

  1. If the campaign is set in an existing setting, cite it.

  2. If the campaign is set in a homebrew setting, some effort should be spent describing it. "Just be as historically accurate as possible" should be a warning flag.

  3. Questions should include context describing why the asker wants to know. Is it for adding a twist to the campaign? To help design a mechanic? The answers should be more fleshed out than "I want it to help me design my campaign." In other words: Why are you asking an RPG site, and not a history/sci-fi site? Why does the answer matter?

  4. Obviously, questions that demand strict historical accuracy and demand non-RPG citations should be VTCed and/or downvoted.

  5. Questions asked for general curiosity/edification should be asked at other sites. Yes, we might be able to answer the question well. We have a diverse user base. But average quality will be much higher on a specialist site.

Survey of Questions

Since initially writing this post last night, I went back and looked at the tags in question. Here are the questions from each tag this year (i.e. over the past seven months):

Based on this survey, I'm not seeing a great deal of problems coming out of these tags at this time. In a seven month period, there is one historical-settings question that is: 1) about historical settings; and 2) of poor quality. And that one is of poor quality due to the structure and vagueness of the question.

Campaign-development is almost devoid of these sorts of questions by volume. The few that do apply seemed fine to me.

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Perhaps it does feel like these questions are more prevalent than they are, maybe it's just that a couple of the examples are particularly egregious. –  wax eagle Jul 25 '12 at 18:07
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@waxeagle I agree that there are some bad ones back on the main page recently (the animals question linked in Oblivious Sage's answer is basically "List every potential hazard that isn't a fantasy creature!"). But I think a certain amount of the tolerance people have for that kind of question is because of Meta posts like this. They don't want to show weakness, for fear that it will open them up to unilateral action. We need to focus more on improving (downvoting, closing) bad questions, and less on trying to throw topic matter out. –  AceCalhoon Jul 25 '12 at 18:53
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Banning non-design setting questions is extreme and unwarranted. What about a question like, "Are elves native to Abeir-Toril? if not, where did the elves originally come from?" The experts for that will be found here, not on sci-fantasy. –  SevenSidedDie Jul 25 '12 at 21:46
    
@SevenSidedDie I don't think that banning all settings questions is necessary (see the comment imediately above yours), only that there is a reasonable argument to be made for it. In the case of the elves of Abeir-Toril, they are part of back story of a successful novel/video game franchise (Forgotten Realms), which also has an RPG component. There's no real difference there than there is in a setting question related to Star Wars... A succesful movie/novel/video game franchise, which also has an RPG component. Well, other than "D&D is synonymous with RPG," I suppose. –  AceCalhoon Jul 25 '12 at 22:32
    
Ah, I see the distinction between arguing for and "there is an argument for". Okay, but about elves: the asker in such cases won't know whether the answer is in a book or in an RPG sourcebook. How can they ask in the right place? (Note also that scifi.SE is for books, TV, and movies—their FAQ doesn't include RPG sources, and strongly implies that the intent is to limit the site to literature and video.) –  SevenSidedDie Jul 25 '12 at 22:52
    
@SevenSidedDie The same can be said for any setting, other than one that is both homebrew and 100% historic. I do think there is a line here... See the numbered list of guidelines above, and the river travel question analysis above. But I think it has more to do with the perspective, scope, and rigor of the question than the topic matter. –  AceCalhoon Jul 26 '12 at 0:06
    
Would you mind summing up your actual actionable answer at the top of your post? –  mxyzplk Aug 2 '12 at 3:39
    
Just wanted to add that it's really cruel to send someone off to the hive of scum and villainy that is the scifi site in order to get answers about Star Wars questions. Mentioning a game setting there will get you thoroughly derided. –  Clara Onager May 8 at 5:52
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I think we should limit it to questions for which RPG experts are the ideal resource for answering the question. A question better answered by some other group, whether it's another StackExchange site or the wider Internet, doesn't belong here.

A question about the speed of water travel, such as this one, should probably be on a history site. A question about dangerous real-world animals for a no-magic setting should probably be on a biology site. A question about a setting based on novels/movies/etc, such as Dresden Files or Star Wars, should probably be on the fantasy/sci-fi site. A research question about an RPG setting, such as this one, would be a good fit here, unlike any of the other sites mentioned.

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I agree with everything but your first sentence. Basically just because there isn't a home for it on the network doesn't mean it's on topic here. However, otherwise I think you've nailed my thoughts on this. –  wax eagle Jul 25 '12 at 2:33
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I didn't necessarily mean we should be a catch-all for the rest of the network, rather that we should only take questions for which RPG experts are the ideal resource. I'll edit the answer to reflect that. –  Oblivious Sage Jul 25 '12 at 4:51
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Why does Mage get to stay, but Star Wars files doesn't? Both are worlds expounded on in RPG and novel form, with many of the RPG relevant details in the RPG material. Why are biologists qualified to determine which animals make for interesting RPG encounters? –  AceCalhoon Jul 25 '12 at 12:57
    
-1 because I disagree strongly about the animal encounters. –  Alex P Jul 25 '12 at 14:13
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I think the animals question is borderline. The problem with asking on a bio site is that they might be all "In what part of the world? Really? Actually, there aren't any dangerous animals there—those predators are just mischaracterised by fairy tales. This question is dumb. *closevote*" Asking for a set of non-magical animals suitable to a particular RPG genre is just barely in-scope, I think, but only barely. –  SevenSidedDie Jul 25 '12 at 21:43
    
@SevenSidedDie Oh, it's more than borderline. It's downright terrible. "Quick, name every potential hazard that isn't a fantasy creature!" It just isn't terrible because it deals with real-world information. It's terrible because it's incredibly non-specific and lazy. –  AceCalhoon Jul 25 '12 at 22:40
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@AceCalhoon Sure, but that sin doesn't bear on whether it's on-topic, just whether it's a constructive question. The latter isn't relevant to the question at hand. –  SevenSidedDie Jul 25 '12 at 22:55
    
@SevenSidedDie That's what I said. –  AceCalhoon Jul 26 '12 at 0:01
    
@AceCalhoon Ah, okay; but expounding on the terribleness of a question in dimensions that are irrelevant just confuses the discussion, as demonstrated. ;-) I maintain that in the relevant ways, it's borderline but just barely acceptable. It's a bad question in other ways, but since it's cited as an example to aid thinking about the topicality of research questions that's irrelevant. –  SevenSidedDie Jul 26 '12 at 0:06
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@AceCalhoon: That what she said. Sorry, force of habit. Anyway, I think the animals thing has a lot to do with simulationism vs narrativism/gamism. A simulationist would look for a biologist's answers, and then try to figure out mechanics for them, while a narrativist would want our answers and then fluff them as appropriate. –  Oblivious Sage Jul 26 '12 at 0:06
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Campaign research questions are generally on topic as long as they are acceptable questions according to other site critera, though we should suggest asking in more appropriate SEs in cases where it is probably better.

Interestingly, I was a major opponent of campaign research questions in the original discussion, but I have come around and disagree with the majority of the "let's ban them" reasoning. here's the deal. To ban a kind of question as a "site rule," it needs to present a clear and present danger to the site. Anything else should go under normal site voting rules. So let's evaluate.

Are There A Lot Of Them?

These questions are not at all frequent. See @AceCalhoon's survey of the questions, only a handful really touch on this problem directly at all. I personally tolerate way more dumb questions in other categories I don't like, so it doesn't make me too sad.

Are They Outside The Site's Scope?

In other words, are they on topic in the most simple sense of being about the subject matter of the site? (This doesn't mean we allow them in and of itself) - like on Gaming, a shopping question might be "on topic" but banned for other reasons.)

Most of these questions seem to me to be legitimately and directly useful to gamers. More than that, they benefit from an answer from a gaming context.

Here's my personal yardstick. Would you expect to see an article written on this topic in an RPG magazine? If so, it is appropriately on topic. For example, with the pirate-based Skull and Shackles adventure path on, RPG gamers are legitimately interested in how to implement nautical travel in their games. An answer to this question from History.SE is likely to be too rooted in the real world to be helpful. Part of the brilliance of Steve Jackson Games, for example, is in their historical sourcebooks for GURPS. These translate "history" into "history in a form useful for gamers". I remember how impressed I was with their Conan sourcebook for the same reason, it converted the fragmentary history of the Howard stories into something one could coherently use to game in - a not inconsiderable task. That translation is "not nothing..."

The "non-fantasy threats" question is on topic. A real world zoologist would give crap answers to this, from a "I want to put together a generic 'forest random encounter table'" perspective. I have several Dragon Magazine articles on this exact topic. You could possibly make a "big list" argument against this specific question but that's irrelevant to whether its subject matter is on topic.

Saying that a topic that an RPG product specifically covers is off topic for RPG.SE is a questionable line of reasoning.

The "What commodities exist in the 1930s" is a closable question because it's poorly scoped, not because it's off topic. Frankly "How do I find out what commodities are available" is an on topic better scoped question - there's plenty of RPG products out there to help people with that question!

Is There A Better Place For Them?

Here's a daring concept. Let people put their questions where they think they're going to get the best answer. RPG vs History, Ubuntu vs Linux and Unix, etc. If the question is off topic in your estimation, vote to close. 4 people agree with you and away it goes. If it's not off topic, but you think it's "better" answered somewhere else - well, opinions are like assholes, everyone has one. Suggest it to the OP. But I'm not really interested in enforcing "what someone thinks would be better," mod action should generally be for major wrongs not opinion differences. Migrating against an OP's wishes not for "off topic" but for "better" is hostile and should not be accepted practice anywhere on the network.

I don't agree entirely with @JonathanHobbs' conclusion but I do agree with the bit he linked from gamedev.se, especially given as it's worded as advice to the user and not as "we will close or migrate you for daring to ask it here!"

Is There Another Compelling Reason To Ban Them?

An argument for banning shopping questions (especially without tight guidance) is that they generate poor quality answers. Or arguments. I don't see campaign research questions doing that (except for the meta-argument of "Do we allow them," which doesn't count). So I'm having trouble seeing any way in which they are being disruptive or contributing to people breaking the "real" site rules (as codified by the vote/flag reasons).

Given that there aren't many of them, and they are generally on topic and not causing problems, and that the site mechanism exists to close ones that are off topic or causing problems, I see no reason for a "site rule" on this topic. Site rules should be minimized to be a friendly, open community - we should only have rules over and above the general SE rules and the FAQ if such a rule is sorely needed (like sys-rec questions qualifies). I don't see that this does.

RPG.SE Is Not RPG Rules SE Or Fantasy SE

Just a warning about some of the common misapprehensions I'm seeing in this discussion.

The act of creating, running, and playing RPGs is about much more than game rules/mechanics. If you are looking to reduce questions just because they don't touch on game rules, you will not find an ally in me.

Similarly, "non magic setting" does not make things off topic here. D&D is fine and great, but this site is and should be inclusive of all games and settings. I understand that the industry largely wallows in the "D&D Ghetto" but that is not relevant here.

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Disagree. The river travel question generated some terrible answers (still has no answer that's directly game-useful), and the question itself was of the form "give me the history—I'll figure out the gaming application myself." That's the poster child for a question that should go on history.SE. I'd say we should be lenient, but watch for the occasional slam-dunk migrate question. That said, yeah—close votes are all we need for this. Pragmatically, this meta question will just serve to avoid arguing in comments when people explain a close vote, since they can bring it here. –  SevenSidedDie Jul 27 '12 at 17:42
    
I think general permission/policy to ask "could you clarify how your question need a gaming-specific answer that you can't get on history.SE?" (without being shouted down) is useful for framing requests for askers to clarify their historical gaming questions, if we get nothing else out of this discussion. All that said, no downvote from me because I thoroughly aggree with the stuff under Are There A Lot Of Them? and RPG.SE Is Not RPG Rules SE Or Fantasy SE. –  SevenSidedDie Jul 27 '12 at 17:47
    
The sailing question wasn't the greatest, but the answers have sucked out of proportion. The bounty "clarification" makes it worse, I do agree. I think the consensus we're coming to here is you are free to suggest that better questions might be found for certain topics on e.g. history.se, but not to "demand" reasons why or have policy-backed close reasons. –  mxyzplk Jul 27 '12 at 18:34
    
I think we do need a policy, but of the guidance sort rather than a hard rule like a ban. That's why I like the wording of the proposed FAQ amendment—it requires thoughtful judgement, which fits the voting system. And I think the river travel question would get much better answers on history.SE than it's gotten here—under the proposed FAQ "policy" I would've voted for migrating, and seen what others thought. –  SevenSidedDie Jul 27 '12 at 19:05
    
I will note that people should be voting their conscience regardless of "site rules" - site rules are for when the normal voting system breaks down for some reason. They should be the exception handlers, not what is driving action. –  mxyzplk Jul 27 '12 at 19:10
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I think the consensus isn't that we need a site rule, but that we've been, collectively, taking a muddled and unsatisfactory approach to certain questions. Clarifying our thinking on this is useful, in the same way that the good/bad-subjective and community wiki discussions gave a useful framework for evaluating questions (and then voting on them). We're educating ourselves again through discussion, this time on exactly why these questions do so poorly here. It'll result in a "hey, think about this while voting your conscience," I think. Good FAQ material. –  SevenSidedDie Jul 27 '12 at 19:22
    
One major point of agreement: we don't actually get many of these. It sounds like Writers and GameDev did, and had to aggressively respond. We can well afford to be unaggressive about these questions because they're few. To the contrary, I don't think we can afford to be aggressive, so we should add some "be gentle, these aren't really common and we don't need to push hard against them; if in doubt it can usually just be fixed with editing to reframe the question in a gaming context" to the FAQ guidance, if it gets added. –  SevenSidedDie Jul 27 '12 at 19:27
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I'm recanting

As someone who strongly argued for keeping historical research questions here, and (if those votes say anything) thereby established some of the weight of consensus to keep them, I'm changing my mind. I really don't think they belong here. Even our very own game books tell us: Go research history in history books. It'll do you and your game good.

Fortunately we have more than libraries now—we also have history.SE as a resource.

An easy litmus test

I don't think we need detailed criteria for judging historical setting questions. Merely this one litmus test:

  • Would this question be on-topic for history.SE?

If it is, then it can't possibly require RPG experts and should be migrated there. This works just as easily for questions about settings that were science fiction or fantasy literature first and are still primarily so.

Questions about roleplaying settings are harder, but we're smart—we can probably tell the difference between a question that's best answered by book fans and one that's best answered by sourcebook experts. The latter should stay here and will be the vast majority.

The former will be rare judgement calls, depending on how tied to a roleplaying context the question is. If it's just "What year in (Dale Reckoning) did Drizzt fight the barghest?" then that's probably best answered by a book fan.

When all you have is a hammer

We have a hammer problem. We're gamers, we like hanging out in gamer spaces, and so we tend to bring our questions around gaming here by preference even when RPG.SE isn't the most suited Stack for the question. We've got this honestly awesome hammer, but it makes us look at too many gaming question as a nail, when really the history Stack is a much better tool for questions about real-world history. If we really value authenticity in a historical question, our duty is to migrate it to history.SE.

I'm going to go register an account there now. I've been holding this hammer too long and it's giving me hand cramps.

Post script: other SEs' answers to this issue

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My .02 pennies... If the question is directly relevant to a game setting or mechanics (published or not) then it should be on topic. If not, then another SE site maybe more appropriate. However, that may hit semantics rather than substance.

What are the effects of a Levant climate on medieval crusaders' arms and armours?. This probably should go into history.se.

What are the effects of a Levant climate on medieval crusaders' arms and armours which may or may not be magical and made from mithril?. This, as I see it, would be on topic.

Edit: I guess what I am driving at is that questions about rules are of no interest to me whatsoever. So, closing a wide range of questions that I hold an interest in would diminish this site value for me. I believe research into a setting to make it realistic (within the internal logic of said setting) should be on topic. Although sometimes better answers should be sought in relevant SE sites or elsewhere -- kids, go read a book ^_~

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IMO, the second question would only be acceptable if the asker included the real-world effects in his initial question. The effects of a very specific region's weather on historical armor is well outside my comfort zone in terms of reasonable knowledge for RPG.SE to vet. I could get behind "the effects of weather in this region on normal armor are ____, how would it effect Mithril and Magic armor ([insert definition of mithril and magic])?" –  AceCalhoon Jul 25 '12 at 14:50
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